Stage 8 of the 2020 Dakar Rally brought mixed results for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. A clear highlight of the day was Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma, who finished second on the 716km-long stage, trailing stage winner Mathieu Serradori, in his South African-built Century CR-6 buggy, by just 4min 4sec. It was a powerful performance by the Spanish duo, though they remain outside the Top 10 in 13th position.
The stage also brought a return to form for the man from Stellenbosch, as Giniel de Villiers and Spanish co-driver Alex Haro went 4th-fastest on the day, just 6min 29sec off the leading pace, despite the fast tracks clearly suiting the two-wheel-drive cars again.
“The changes the team had made to the aerodynamics of our cars certainly helped,” said De Villiers after the stage. “The buggies are still faster, but the changes allowed us to stay in touch.”
At 477km in length, the racing section of Stage 8 brought a long day in the saddle for the car competitors, with the leaders having to pick their own way through the landscape, after the stage was cancelled for the bike and quad competitors, following the tragic passing of motorcyclist Paulo Gonçalves during Stage 7. This meant the winner from Stage 7, Carlos Sainz, had to open the road without the benefit of motorcycle tracks to follow.
The 2018 champion soon fell foul to the dunes, allowing TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Al-Attiyah/Baumel through, but the King of the Dunes got stuck in the soft sand himself, losing the best part of three minutes as a result. This allowed the chasing pack to catch up, trading places at the head of the field throughout the stage.
“In the end, we are really pleased with our progress today,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the bivouac at Wadi Al Dawasir. “When the dust had settled, Nasser had made up nearly four minutes on the lead; Fernando had gone second-fastest over the stage; and Giniel was clearly back on the pace.”
Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul had a lucky escape, after a rock punctured the right front tyre of their car, before smashing clear through a chassis member of the car, and knocking a hole in the vehicle’s dry sump. The pair were forced to stop in order to change the tyre, but elected to push on despite the leaking oil reserve.
“They made it safely to the end of the stage and into the bivouac, for which we are really greateful,” concluded Hall. “They still posted the 7th-fastest time of the day, so Bernhard and Tom did a really good job, despite the mid-stage difficulties.”
Other than the mishap with the rock, all four cars completed the stage unscathed, and continue to run optimally despite the rough conditions.
The rally now moves into Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter for the final stages, which promise more hardpack and sandy tracks, though the Toyota Hilux drivers will be hoping for more dunes and technical terrain, where the toughness of the South African-built car will be to their advantage.
Dakar 2020 is the first to take place in Saudi Arabia, and consists of 12 stages. The final stage will see the rally return to the nation’s capital, where the race is scheduled to conclude on Friday, January 17th.
2020 Dakar Rally Stage 8 Results:
2nd No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +4min 04sec
4th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +6min 29sec
7th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +10min 19sec
11th No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +15min 5sec
2020 Dakar Rally Overall Results After Stage 8:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +6min 40sec
6th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +53min 12sec
8th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +1hr 7min 00sec
13th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +3hrs 10min 51sec
While we wait for the race to start, here’s the starting order for today. Serradori in the SA-built Century Racing CR6 finds himself in a prime position as they head into the empty quarter. Following a stellar outing yesterday, Alonso will be setting off second, followed by Terranova. With more loads of ground to cover today, anything can happen.
At the KM50 waypoint the order already looked much different from the start. Al-Attiyah battled his way into first place, followed by Sainz and Peterhansel in third. Serradori, who started first this morning, dropped down to 12th. A few cars have already reached the second waypoint, where Terranova leads, Alonso is second and Serradori is back up to third.
Ronan Chabot, 15th in the general standings this morning, has pushed a little too hard this morning. After 33 km of the special, the Frenchman, taking part in his 21st Dakar, rolled his Toyota. Fortunately, he and his co-pilot are unhurt.
At Waypoint KM104, Peterhansel is in the lead. Sainz is in second place, less than ten seconds behind. Al-Attiyah is in third, less than 20 seconds behind Peterhansel. Przygonski, in fourth place, is two minutes further back. Ten Brinke is fifth. Giniel de Villiers is in 9th place and Alonso in 10th. Serradori is in 13th place.
Serradori’s locally-built Century Racing CR6 is currently suffering from pump failure on the power steering. The team decided to carry on regardless, though it will have an impact on their performance.
Al-Attiyah, Sainz and Peterhansel have all gone through waypoint KM156. Peterhansel remains in the lead, with Al-Attiyah 21 seconds behind in second place. Surprisingly, Sainz has dropped down to seventh place, with more than five minutes between him and Peterhansel. Seaidan is currently in fourth and Ten Brinke in fifth.
At waypoint PK244, Peterhansel remains in the lead, with Al-Attiyah in second, less than a minute behind. Seaidan is in third and Przygonski in fourth. Ten Brinke is in fifth, followed by Sainz, slowly clawing away at the gap between him and the frontrunners.
At waypoint PK299, Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah are still first and second, with less than a minute between them. Seaidan remains in third place, as does Przygonski in fourth. Carlos Sainz has moved up to fifth place and has closed the gap to 3.31. Ten Brinke lost a spot and is in sixth, Rajhi is in seventh, Prokop in eight, Roma in ninth and Giniel de Villiers in tenth. Alonso is currently in 12th place.
Serradori’s CR6 is competing, even though the car has lost its power steering. He’s currently in 16th place.
Another exciting 2020 #DakarRally stage is done and dusted. Peterhansel managed to hold on to his lead for most of the day. Al-Attiyah finished in second, 15 seconds behind. Sainz lost 5 minutes earlier in the day, likely due to a flat tyre. He spent the day clawing back, but in the end he fell even further behind Peterhansel. The gap between them was 6.31.
We also have to give a shout out to Serradori who performed admirably today. The Century Racing CR6’s power steering failed early in the race, which meant he had to pilot his buggy the old fashioned way. By the end of the stage, he had lost just 28 minutes, which is a stunning achievement.