Fernando Alonso delivered his best performance of the 2020 Dakar so far by finishing Stage 8 in second place.
The Spanish driver, alongside navigator Marc Coma, finished the stage 4min4sec behind stage winner and fellow Spaniard, Mathieu Serradori. Despite a really strong finish, Alonso remains outside of the Top 10 in 13th place – more than 3 hours off the pace.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers also looked to be in better form, following a neck injury sustained last Friday. De Villiers drove his Hillux with intent to finish the stage with the fourth fastest time, just 6min29sec off the pace.
The man from Stellenbosch said: “The changes the team had made to the aerodynamics of our cars certainly helped. The buggies are still faster, but the changes allowed us to stay in touch.”
Following the death of Paulo Gonçalves, race organisers canceled the day’s running for bike and quad competitors as a sign of respect for the fallen rider. This meant that the navigators in the cars had to rely on their notes only, and not follow the tracks made by the bikers.
On the racing section, a 477km in length, overall leader Carlos Sainz (Mini) soon found himself lost in the dunes. This allowed Nasser Al-Attiyah to leapfrog his rival and make up some much-needed time in the overall classification.
Team principal, Glynn Hall, said from the bivouac at Wadi Al Dawasir: “In the end, we are really pleased with our progress today. 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.”
According to the team report, 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.
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
Compiled by: Charlen Raymond