It was a tough day for team Toyota Gazoo Racing on the opening day of #Dakar2020.
According to a team report from Saudi Arabia, the team suffered a total of eleven punctures on the first day’s 319km course, leaving them with quite a bit of work over the next few days.
Defending champion, Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel set the early pace in the race, but three punctures 100km from the end saw them drop from first to fifth, more than 5min30 off the pace.
Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal, Glyn Hall, said after the crews reached the bivouac at Al Wajh: “It was a disappointing end to a fantastic stage for Nasser and Mathieu. They set the pace from the get-go, and they were on for an emphatic victory.
"But then fate intervened, and as a result, they’ll have a bit of a fight on their hands for the next few days.”
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South African Giniel de Villiers, along with co-driver Alex Haro, had a tough day at the office. Four punctures hindered any chance of a stage victory. Fortunately, the fourth puncture was a slow leak, and could the duo make it across the finish line without losing any more time.
De Villiers is not at his best, either. The South African made it known that he came down with something, and that also had an impact on his performance. He noted: “It was nervous end to the stage, as we had no spares left. The fact that I was under the weather didn’t help either.”
De Villiers and Haro finished the opening day in 14th place.
Maiden Dakar stage
Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul finished the stage in sixth place behind Al-Attiyah and Baumel, but also had to contend with two punctures.
Dakar newby, Fernando Alonso, accompanied by Marc Coma, also suffered two punctures. In addition, navigation problems saw them lose even more time during the stage. They eventually ended the day in eleventh place.
STAGE 1 Results – Toyota Gazoo Racing:
5th place. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel +05:33
6. Bernhard ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul +06:30
11. Fernando Alonso / Marc Coma +15:27
14. Giniel de Villiers / Alex Haro +23:16
The next stage will see the crews take on a 367km-long special stage between the cities of Al Wajh and Neom, on Saudi Arabia’s eastern coast. The terrain along the Red Sea promises more hard-pack and rocky tracks, which could play havoc with the tyres again.