Stage 12 saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Qatari driver, Nasser Al Attiyah, notch up his twelfth stage victory in the Dakar Rally. More importantly, this was his third win for 2018, and cements his third place in the general rankings. The winner of two previous Dakars, partnered on this event with navigator Mathieu Baumel, reported a clean run in his Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux.
“The stage worked out perfectly for us,” said Al Attiyah from the bivouac at San Juan. “We had a great road position, starting the stage as the fifth car on the road. This, together with a great navigating performance by Mathieu, made it possible for us to win the stage for Toyota.”
Al Attiyah/Baumel raced for 05:49:57, beating Peugeot’s Stephane Peterhansel by 02:03 after the latter had a big scare. According to eyewitnesses, the Peugeot driver left the road in sixth gear, and was extremely lucky not to roll or severely damage his car.
Third-fastest on Stage 12 was Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers, partnered with German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz. The man from Stellenbosch finished the stage just 04:33 behind teammates Al Attiyah/Baumel, and 02:30 behind Peterhansel.
“We actually had a pretty good stage, and were it not for two punctures that cost us more than five minutes, we may well have won the stage,” said De Villiers after reaching the bivouac at San Juan, nearly 12 hours after setting off from Chilecito. “But even so we are happy with our performance today.”
Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke, with French navigator Michel Périn beside him, were the first crew to tackle Stage 12 of this year’s Dakar Rally. The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew had won Stage 11 – the fearsome Fiambala stage – and as such they were the first car into Stage 12. Despite having to open the road, the pair constantly challenged for the stage win, but dropped back after experiencing a small electronic problem.
“We were surprised at how quick we were early in the stage,” said Ten Brinke. “But then we had a problem with the altitude sensor on the car, and had to stop. Luckily I had dealt with a similar issue during testing in Morocco last year, so I knew exactly where to cut which wires in order to bypass the sensor. I did the necessary, and we were back on the road. But it cost us maybe five minutes, which was enough to drop us out of the lead.”
Ten Brinke/Périn eventually clocked in 07:53 behind Al Attiyah, posting the fifth-fastest time of the day. It was a great performance, especially given the fact that they were opening the road, which can usually cost a crew significant amounts of time.
“Overall, we are happy with our performance today,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from San Juan. “Another stage win, and three crews in the top five… But we came here to win the race, and as such we can’t help but be a little disappointed. With that said, stage victories are great, and we value them enormously.”
One more long stage remains in the Dakar Rally of 2018 – Stage 13, which takes the race from San Juan to Cordoba. The racing stage is 369 km in length, and comprises a mix of surfaces including dunes, gravel tracks and lush jungle paths. The stage also features a liaison section of 560 km, bringing the total for the day to 929 km – a massive stage, that could still prove to be a sting in the tail of the Dakar.
As things stand, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA has three crews in the Top 5, with Al Attiyah/Baumel leading the charge. The Qatari/Frenchman are currently in third place, just over an hour behind rally leader Sainz (Peugeot). Ten Brinke/Périn is in fourth, just shy of twelve minutes further back; with De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz in fifth, 01:26:31 behind Sainz.
The Dakar Rally draws to a close on Saturday, January 20th, in the Argentine city of Cordoba.
Stage 12 results:
1 N. Al Attiyah (TOYOTA) 05:49:57
2 S. Peterhansel (Peugeot) +02:03
3 G. De Villiers (TOYOTA) +04:33
4 O. Terranova (Mini) +05:56
5 B. Ten Brinke (TOYOTA) +07:53
Overall standings after stage 12:
1 C. Sainz (Peugeot) 42:24:31
2 S. Peterhansel (Peugeot) +00:44:41
3 N. Al Attiyah (TOYOTA) +01:05:55
4 B. Ten Brinke (TOYOTA) +01:17:21
5 G. De Villiers (TOYOTA) +01:26:31
Source: Toyota SA