AL WAJH, Saudi Arabia – It was a tough opening stage at Dakar 2020 for Toyota Gazoo Racing thanks to 11 punctures suffered by the four Toyota Hilux crews.
Defending crew Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel set the early pace but three punctures 100km from the end of the 319km special stage saw the Qatari and his French co-driver drop down the order to fifth place, some 5min33s behind stage winners, Vaidotas Zala and Saulius Jurgelenas (Mini).
South African team principal Glyn Hall said: “It was a disappointing end to a fantastic stage. Nasser and Mathieu set the pace from start and were heading for a win but fate intervened and now they’ll have a bit of a fight for the next few days.”
Team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Spanish co-driver Alex Haro had and even harder time: four punctures and three stops tp change wheels… the final puncture was a slow leak and the crew made it to the finish after re-inflating the tyre using the manual on-board inflation system.
They finished 14th, 23min16 behind the leaders.
De Villiers said later: “It was nervous end to the stage – we had no spares left.”
Team-mates Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul had only two punctures and finished fifth, losing 6min30 behind the leaders.
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Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma completed their first Dakar stage together. They also had two punctures and lost time due to some problems with navigation.
Today’s stage will be a 367km special stage between the cities of Al Wajh and Neom, on Saudi Arabia’s eastern coast. The terrain along the Red Sea promises more hard-pack and rocky tracks, which could play havoc with the tyres again.
Dakar 2020 is scheduled to conclude in Riyahd on Friday, January 17.
STAGE 1 Results – Toyota Gazoo Racing:
5 Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel +05:33
6 Bernhard ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul +06:30
11 Fernando Alonso / Marc Coma +15:27
14 Giniel de Villiers / Alex Haro +23:16