Sec­ond a downer for Ga­zoo


The Citizen (KZN) - - Motorsport - Own Cor­re­spon­dent

Punc­tures, penalty and a nav­i­ga­tional mis­take may have cost Al-At­tiyah the win.

The top step of the 2020 Dakar Rally podium might have eluded Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing, but the team still had plenty to be proud of, with three of its South African-built Hilux bakkies fin­ish­ing in the top-10, while Fer­nando Alonso fin­ished 13th to scoop the top rookie award.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Nasser al-At­tiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel put up a brave fight in the in­au­gu­ral race in Saudi Ara­bia to fin­ish sec­ond, 6 min 21 sec be­hind win­ner Car­los Sainz in a Mini.

For­mer cham­pion Giniel de Vil­liers and Span­ish co-driver Alex Haro earned a fifth-placed fin­ish in the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion, 1 hour 7 min 9 sec be­hind Sainz, while Dutch­man Bernard ten Brinke bounced back from re­tire­ments in 2018 and 2019 to fin­ish sev­enth, along­side Tom Col­soul 1 hr 18 min 34 sec adrift.

Ga­zoo Rac­ing’s team prin­ci­pal Glyn Hall said: “We came here to win, so we can’t help but be dis­ap­pointed with the fi­nal re­sult.

“Then again, we have three cars in the top-10 and fin­ished sec­ond af­ter a tough bat­tle, so there’s plenty to be proud of.”

Al-At­tiyah put up a tremen­dous ef­fort in the sec­ond week, cut­ting away at Sainz’s lead bit by bit to re­duce the gap to a mere 24 sec at the end of stage 9.

But dis­as­ter struck on stage 10, which left him with too much to make up.

He none­the­less cut more than 3 min off Sainz’s lead and romped to victory in the fi­nal stage. It was Ga­zoo Rac­ing’s sec­ond stage win af­ter De Vil­liers’ suc­cess in stage 2.

“It was a tough fight,” said Al-At­tiyah. “Un­for­tu­nately, we just lost too much time to punc­tures, a penalty and one nav­i­ga­tional mis­take. It cost us the victory, but we’ll be back to fight again next year.”

Alonso earned many plau­dits for not only be­ing com­pet­i­tive in many stages, but also main­tain­ing a top-10 po­si­tion by mid-race in the for­mer two-time For­mula One cham­pion and twice Le Mans 24 Hours win­ner’s first Dakar.

Alonso and fel­low Spa­niard co-driver Marc Coma lost over two hours af­ter hit­ting an un­marked ditch on stage 2.

Another set­back fol­lowed on stage 10 af­ter the pair rolled their Hilux and com­pleted the stage with­out a wind­screen, but they per­se­vered and even­tu­ally came in 4 hr 42 min 47 sec off the pace.

“In the end, we brought all four of our cars to the fin­ish with­out any tech­ni­cal is­sues,” said Hall.

“That in it­self is a great achieve­ment, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the ter­rain we had to tra­verse.”

The mid­dle east­ern coun­try be­came the third host of the race that orig­i­nally started in Paris and ren­dezvoused around the west coast of Africa be­fore mov­ing to South Amer­ica for 10 edi­tions.

Saudi Ara­bia of­fered a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop for the 42nd edi­tion. The race con­sisted of 12 stages, start­ing in the Red Sea city of Jed­dah and con­clud­ing on the out­skirts of Saudi cap­i­tal Riyadh.

CLOSE, BUT NO CI­GAR. Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing’s Nasser Al-At­tiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel were con­fined to sec­ond place in the first Dakar Rally staged in Saudi Ara­bia.

Pic­tures: Sup­plied

ALL-ROUNDER. Spa­niard Fer­nando Alonso im­pressed in his first Dakar Rally by scoop­ing the top rookie award.

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