4x4, dakar rally, Motoring News, off-road racing, toyota

Rash of flats gives SA Toyota crews tough Dakar start

DUNE AND DUSTED: Stage 1 of the 2019 Dakar rally was a tough one for all teams with punctures the big problem for the day. Image: Supplied

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.”

‘NERVOUS END’

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.

SEASIDE DRIVE TODAY

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

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