Stage 9 sees Toyota Gazoo Racing's Al Attiyah / Baumel close in on Dakar lead

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel recorded the 2nd-fastest time on Stage 9 of the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, surrendering just 15sec to stage winner Stephane Peterhansel (MINI).

Stage 9 sees Toyota Gazoo Racing's Al Attiyah / Baumel close in on Dakar lead
Image Supplied by Toyota South Africa

In the overall standings, the Qatari driver 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.

“The pace at which Nasser and the two MINIs are going, is crazy,”

said teammate Giniel de Villiers after reaching the bivouac at Haradh.

“I honestly don’t know how they’re doing it, but I just hope Nasser can keep it up to the finish.”

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. But the pair were forced to open the road after front-runner Mathieu Serradori ran into difficulties early in the stage. While Coma certainly has plenty of experience in finding the route, this was a new experience for Alonso, but the Spaniard powered through the stage without any problems, and recorded the 9th-best time of the day.

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.

“The Marathon is always a nervous time for us,”

explained Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Principal Glyn Hall, after all four Toyota Hilux race cars reached the Stage 9 bivouac in Haradh.

“Especially with the front-runners pushing as hard as they are at the moment. We’ll be holding our breaths here in Haradh, as we wait for the cars to reach Shubaytah. We’ve made sure the cars are in perfect condition after Stage 9, and the crews will be carrying additional spares in order to cover as many bases as possible.”

Dakar 2020 is scheduled to finish in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Friday, January 17th, after 12 racing stages.

2020 Dakar Rally Stage 9 Results:

2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +15sec

7th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +8min 30s

8th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +11min 16sec

9th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +13min 3sec

2020 Dakar Rally Overall Results After Stage 9:

2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +24sec

6th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +57min 57sec

7th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +1hr 8min 59sec

10th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +3hrs 17min 23sec

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