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,”
“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
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