TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’ Nasser Al-Attiyah within 30 seconds of overall Dakar lead
Nasser Al-Attiyah within 30 seconds of overall lead as all TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews now in top 10 after Dakar stage 9.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel closed to within a mere 24 seconds of the 2020 Dakar Rally lead with a blistering performance on Stage 9 which saw crews travel some 868 kilometres from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh in eastern Saudia Arabia. The crew brought their Toyota Hilux home in a strong position to defend their Dakar crown, posting the second fastest time of the day and losing just 15 seconds to the leaders while gaining 6min 16sec in the overall standings.
The defending champions were the 11th car on the road, meaning they had tracks to follow in the desert and allowing them to attack with confidence. Nasser and Mathieu pushed throughout the 410-kilometre special stage and took advantage when his closest rivals suffered a puncture and navigational issues.
All four TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews are now within the Top 10 of the overall rankings following yet another sterling performance by Fernando Alonso and navigator Marc Coma on Stage 9 to climb three places in the overall rankings to 10th as the pair continue to push themselves to the limit.
Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro sustained a puncture early on Stage 9, losing nearly two minutes to change the tyre. Nevertheless, Giniel and Alex lost only 11min 16sec to bring their Hilux home eighth fastest and continue to hold on to their sixth place overall. The pair will set their sights firmly on fifth place overall which is currently 8min 16sec away with three stages remaining.
Coming home in seventh place on Stage 9 are Bernhard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul, losing 8min 30sec to the leaders. The crew reported another clean run but were unable to match the pace of the front-runners. Despite this, the pair moved up in the overall rankings to seventh with a gap to the leaders of 1hr 8min 59sec.
Dakar rookie Fernando and his more experienced navigator Marc made quick work to overtake the road opener within the first 100 kilometres and spent the remaining 300 kilometres of the stage effectively as the road opener for the first time at the pair’s first Dakar Rally together. A clean stage saw the crew cross the finish line ninth fastest on the stage despite having no tracks to follow, losing 13min 3sec to the leaders. Fernando is also now the highest placed “Dakar Rookie” in the 2020 edition of the legendary race.
Stage 10 is the Marathon Stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally which will be competed over a total distance of 608 kilometres, of which 534 kilometres will be the timed special stage from Haradh to Shubaytah. The first part of the route will send crews into the vast off-road expanses of the Rub’ al Khali, also known as the “Empty Quarter”, a 650,000km2 area on the Arabian Peninsula which makes up the world’s largest sand desert. After an initial high-speed, off-road course, crews will need to traverse the final 30 kilometres featuring sand dune crossings.
The Marathon Stage is unique because crews will not have the benefit of a service by the team’s mechanics. Repairs, if needed, are done by the crews themselves with no outside assistance and using tools and spare parts they could carry with them at the small bivouac in Shubaytah. They will return to the bivouac in Haradh at the end of Stage 11 where TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s technical crews will once again take over service and repair duties.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “It was another big day for the team, and a great one for Nasser and Mathieu, who closed to within 25 seconds of the lead. Finishing just 15 seconds behind the stage winners after 400 kilometres of racing is just incredible, and you could tell by Nasser’s eyes that he pushed extremely hard today. It wasn’t in the plan for Fernando to open the road today, but he had to take over the duties and opened for over 300 kilometres and did a great job.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (No. 300): “We’re right on the limit and I’m quite relieved to have finished today’s stage. It really wasn’t easy, as we started quite far back. We struggled with a lot of dust and had to pass a lot of cars, but we decided to push really hard in order to close the gap. Now the gap is just 24 seconds, which is amazing after nearly 5,000 kilometres of racing. Tomorrow brings new challenges, but we’ll do our best to get another good result.”
Giniel de Villiers (No. 304): “It was a fairly technical start to the stage, but unfortunately we had a flat early on. The second part of the stage was again much faster, with some dune crossings towards the end. But it all went well for us. The pace for the leading pack today was astounding and with Nasser now just 24sec behind in the overall standings. We’re all in for an interesting end to the race.”
Bernhard ten Brinke (No. 307): “We started the stage okay and in the beginning we were really fast. The track was really fast and technical and the car felt really good. After the neutralisation, things became a bit boring for 80 kilometres where we only had to concentrate on the navigation. The stage ended with some dunes and rocks and we decided to slow down a touch in order to avoid punctures. Looking at the overall classification, we’ve moved up a place; but we’re also in a good position for tomorrow’s stage.”
Fernando Alonso (No. 310): “It was a good day with another new experience for me. We had to open the route after overtaking the first car early in the stage and we spent 350km opening the road as the first car. We also crossed the finish line as the first car out of the stage which was great. I’m happy with the day and also with our ninth place on the stage which gives us a good starting position for tomorrow’s stage in the dunes. So, we have high hopes for tomorrow again.”
2020 Dakar Rally Stage 9 Results:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +15sec
7th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +8min 30sec
8th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +11min 16sec
9th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +13min 3sec
2020 Dakar Rally Overall Results After Stage 9:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +24sec
6th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +57min 57sec
7th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +1hr 8min 59sec
10th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +3hrs 17min 23sec