TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews performed steadily on Stage 5 of the 2020 Dakar Rally as the race moved from the spectacular scenery around Al Ula to the north-western agricultural city of Ha’il. While the mostly sandy terrain meant fewer punctures, the crews’ consistent performance did not deliver the race result improvements anticipated.
Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel led the charge in the Toyota Hilux, posting the second fastest time on the 353-kilometre special stage despite being the second car on the road. The crew took the lead when the leader stopped because of a puncture, but were unable to capitalise on the road opening position. The new road book format, issued to the crews minutes before the start, meant Nasser and Mathieu could not adequately prepare and find the route in tricky conditions. The crew crossed the finish line 2min 56sec back from the leaders in second place and reported a largely clean run, sustaining only one slow puncture in the final 100 kilometres of the stage. They elected to push themselves to minimise time loss but still saw their gap to the leaders overall increase to 5min 59sec.
Choosing to preserve their tyres on the rocky sections of the stage to avoid more punctures, Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro lost 11min 46sec on Stage 5. Unfortunately, the strategy cost them more time than anticipated and was made worse when Giniel hurt his neck after an awkward landing just 50 kilometres from stage end. Although not a severe injury, the crew decided to slow down to avoid exacerbating the injury. The crew holds on to their seventh place overall falling back to 46min 26sec behind the leaders.
Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul lost valuable time on the stage despite running higher up in the starting order in the first section. Although the pair suffered no punctures, they lost time searching for the waypoint in the middle of the stage. The good news for the crew is that Bernhard is clearly on the mend, recovering from the flu that affected them since Stage 4. Their Stage 5 time was good enough for 12th on the day and they retain their eighth position overall, dropping back to 1hrs 4min 54sec from the lead.
It was a positive Stage 5 for Fernando Alonso and navigator Marc Coma who posted the seventh fastest time of the day just 37 seconds behind their more experienced teammates, Giniel and Alex. The pair suffered some time loss near the start of the stage due to poor visibility following the dust kicked up by slower competitors. Still, the duo managed to pass several competitors and found a good rhythm towards the end of the stage. Fernando and Marc continue their upward recovery, moving up to 18th place in the overall standings, 3hrs 11min 50sec from the leaders, despite suffering two punctures.
More sand is expected on Stage 6 which takes crews from Ha’il to the Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh which also marks the half-way point of the 2020 Dakar Rally. The 477-kilometre special stage will start with a fast section before changing scenery once again to sand dunes which should suit the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews. The total route of 830-kilometres is the longest day so far so the Rest Day on the following day will be a welcome relief for all involved.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal : “Another really big day on the Dakar Rally. We have one day to go before the Rest Day and I really hoped that we would be in the lead at this point. In fact, today we’ve gone in the opposite direction, even though Nasser had a fantastic stage. He had to open most of the route and we know how difficult that is. The closed road book meant it was impossible to prepare, but I think Mathieu did a fantastic job.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (No. 300) : “It was a good day for us and I’m happy; but it was not easy for anyone today. We were racing with two competitors at the front, and they were helping each other, making it difficult for us. But still, we’ll see how things develop. For now, I’m quite happy. They’ll be opening the stage tomorrow, and I’m sure I’ll be able to catch them and close the gap by at least three minutes. But it’s still a long way to go, and for now we just need to remain in the top positions. Next week is going to be difficult so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Giniel de Villiers (No. 304) : “It was a very tough day for us today. Lots of sand, dunes and camel grass for 250 kilometres; it was really tricky. The first 100 kilometres were really fast, but then we reached some rocks and I was maybe a little bit too cautious in that section so we lost some time there. Then, at the last 50 kilometres I had to slow down, because I had just tweaked my neck slightly on one of the bumps. Otherwise, we had a good stage without any problems and I’m happy with the car.”
Bernhard ten Brinke (No. 307) : “I feel quite good today, although my voice is still quite bad. It’s probably good for Tom because I can’t shout at him. Today started really well for us and by the first neutralisation we were up to fifth or sixth. The pace was good, but then we lost some time due to navigation in the second part. No punctures today and the Hilux was very good. Unfortunately, we lost some valuable time, but that’s part of the game.”
Fernando Alonso (No. 310) : “Today was a good stage for us. In terms of pace, I think this was probably my best stage at the Dakar Rally so far. We are confident with the Hilux and we had a good rhythm, especially in the sandy places towards the end of the stage. We started further back on the road, which is a disadvantage in terms of dust, especially in the beginning; but it helps with finding the route later on in the stage. It would have been nice to be slightly higher up in the stage results, but we do want to start a little further back tomorrow, as we are expecting some dunes. Overall I’m very happy with today’s performance.”
2020 Dakar Rally Day 5 Results:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +2min 56sec
6th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +11min 46sec
7th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +12min 23sec
12th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +20min 14sec
2020 Dakar Rally Overall Results After Day 5:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +5min 59sec
7th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +46min 26sec
8th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +1hr 4min 54sec
18th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +3hrs 11min 50sec