Hall: Second half is crucial
While he was pleased the local outfit were still in contention at the Dakar Rally, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal Glyn Hall admitted they were facing a stressful second half of the race after two of their three drivers lost significant ground over the dunes of Peru.
Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah (above) took second place on Friday’s fifth stage, more than 10 minutes off the pace of Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot) who completed the 517km leg between Tacna and Arequipa in 4:56:34.
Al-Attiyah’s performance was good enough to retain his overall lead, stretching his advantage to nearly 25 minutes over France’s Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) heading into Saturday’s rest day.
“To be in the lead of the Dakar is special, but to be at the head of the field with five stages to go is a cruel mix between elation and terror,” Hall said ahead of the 309km sixth stage which was held late yesterday.
Despite hitting rocks and damaging their vehicles last week, essentially eliminating them from honours, South African driver Giniel de Villiers and Toyota Gazoo SA team-mate Bernhard ten Brinke of the Netherlands were still fighting further back.
De Villiers finished ninth on the stage, climbing to 21st in the general classification, and Ten Brinke was 10th, settling in 14th spot overall.
“It is a mammoth task to make sure everything is ready for the final week,” Hall said.
“But we’ve done this many times in the past and the lads know exactly how important the work is, so I’m confident that we’ll be in good shape for the second week.”
Meanwhile, South African debutant Shameer Variawa (Nissan) was forced to withdraw midway through the race, bringing his event to a close.
On the bikes, Kenneth Gilbert (BAS Dakar) continued to lead the SA charge.
Gilbert was in 27th position, nearly three hours behind American leader Ricky Brabec (Honda), and countryman Stuart Gregory (KTM) was in 74th place with five stages remaining.
Mammoth task to make sure everything is ready for the final week. Glyn Hall Toyota Gazoo team principal