Second a downer for Gazoo
DAKAR: ALL FOUR SA-BUILT HILUXES FINISH GRUELLING RACE WITH NO TECHNICAL ISSUES
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.
ALL-ROUNDER. Spaniard Fernando Alonso impressed in his first Dakar Rally by scooping the top rookie award.