■ Roelof de Jonge
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel recorded the second fastest time on Stage 9 on Tuesday the 14th of January of the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, surrendering just 15sec to the eventual stage winner Stephane Peterhansel in his MINI.
In the overall standings, the Qatari driver Al-Attiyah shaved 6min 16sec off the deficit to race leader Carlos Sainz (MINI), and now finds himself just 24sec behind the Spaniard.
Al-Attiyah/Baumel predicted a high-speed chase on Stage 9, and that’s exactly what happened. The Toyota driver started the stage as the 11th car on the road, and used the position to his advantage. At the same time, Sainz lost time early in the stage, first to a puncture and then with navigational problems. This allowed Al-Attiyah and Baumel to close the gap, and they are now bare seconds behind, after 35 hours of racing.
Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Alex Haro posted the 8th fastest time on Stage 9, and remain in 6th place in the overall standings, 57min 57sec behind the leaders. At the same time, teammates Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul went 7th fastest, and moved up to 7th place in the overall standings as a result.
Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma, in the final Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux, started as the second car into the stage, thanks to their great performance on Stage 8.
The pair surrendered only 13min 3sec on the stage and have moved up to 10th place in the overall standings. This makes Alonso the best-performing rookie so far in the 2020 Dakar Rally, and also means that all four Toyota Gazoo Racing cars are now in the Top 10.
Stage 10 is the away leg of the feared Marathon Stage, which sees the crews race away from the bivouac at Haradh, to a smaller overnight camp at Shubaytah, some 608km away.
The stage includes a timed section of 534km, but the race crews have to service and repair their own cars at Shubaytah, before taking on the return leg to Haradh on Thursday.
Dakar 2020 is scheduled to finish in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Friday the 17th of January after 12 racing stages.
Bulletin will have a full report next week on the Dakar and how the South African built and designed Hilux’s have done at this year’s 2020 Dakar.
■ SPORT NEWS