After the disappointment of Stage 4, which saw both Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz and Nasser Al Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel lose significant time, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA really needed a day of consolidation – and that’s exactly what all three crews delivered on Stage 5 of Dakar 2018. The stage was yet another extremely tough one, and consisted of 268 km of special stage, with 666 km of liaison on top of that. To make matters even more interesting, 84% of the stage was run on soft dunes, similar to those that brought the team so much woe on Stage 4.
The drive of the day again belonged to Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke, paired with French navigator Michel Périn. The pair not only recorded a perfectly clean stage, but also kept pace with the leading Peugeot of Stephane Peterhansel over terrain that was much more suited to the buggy. In the end Ten Brinke/Périn ended the stage with a deficit of only five minutes to the Peugeot.
“We had a really good day today,” said Ten Brinke after completing the grueling drive to the bivouac at Arequipa. “The Hilux never missed a beat, Michel was right on the money with the navigation, and it all showed in the stage results.”
Ten Brinke’s charge today sees the Dutch driver move up in third place in the overall standings, behind the Peugeots of Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz. Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb was forced to withdraw from the race today, after his long-time navigator, Daniel Elena, injured his back early on Stage 5.
Further back, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz got stuck shortly after starting the stage. They weren’t alone, however, as many of the top drivers lost time in the same area.
“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted, but thankfully we didn’t lose too much time today,” explained De Villiers from Arequipa. “With that said, we finished the day 13 minutes behind Peterhansel, and if we had not gotten stuck near the start, we may well have finished much closer to him.”
As it turned out, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz posted the third-fastest time on the stage, some five minutes ahead of Carlos Sainz (Peugeot), despite suffering a puncture mid-stage. This result sees the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew move up into 5th place in the overall standings.
It was a tough day for Qatari driver Nasser Al Attiyah, with French navigator Mathieu Baumel beside him. The current holders of the FIA’s Cross-Country World Cup started the day on a charge, and quickly made up some time over the leaders. However, their gearbox developed a problem, and they lost ground again.
“Luckily the stage was divided into two sections, and we were able to catch up with our technical crew in between the sections,” said Al Attiyah. “The crew did an amazing job to replace our gearbox in just twenty minutes – but that meant that we’d lost even more time.”
The Toyota Hilux crew quickly found their rhythm again, however, and clawed back time throughout the remainder of the stage. They ended up going 5th-fastest on Stage 5, losing only 16 minutes to Peterhansel despite the gearbox change. This sees the Qatari in 4th place in the overall standings, making it 3-4-5 for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA after five stages of racing.
“Overall, it was a good day of consolidation for us,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the bivouac at Arequipa. “We needed a clean run, and with the exception of Nasser’s gearbox, that’s exactly what we got. The race crews really knuckled down in tough conditions today, and delivered just what the doctor had ordered. Now we need to keep delivering more of the same, and with a bit of luck we might just end up in a position from where we can attack.”
Stage 6 follows next, and heralds a clear change in proceedings as the Dakar heads for Bolivia – and the higher altitudes associated with that country. The stage starts in the Peruvian city of Arequipa, and will be run almost entirely on dirt tracks, rather than the dunes of the opening stages. With the stage peaking at nearly 4,700 metres, this will be the first of a series of high-altitude stages, which will again have an influence on the performance of the normally aspirated Toyota Hilux’s V8 engine.
At the same time, the hard-packed gravel will require the team to run their tyres at the correct pressures throughout the stage. This will certainly favour the Toyota Hilux crews on the one hand; while the increased altitude will hamper them on the other.
The stage is 313 km in length, with a liaison of 447 km. It also sees the Dakar cross into Bolivia, for the rest day in the Bolivian capital of La Paz, on January 12th. The rest day is a day of high activity in the bivouac as the technical crews prepare the cars for the second part of the Dakar Rally, starting with the so-called marathon stage to the high plains near Uyuni. The race finishes on January 20th, in the Argentine city of Cordoba.
STAGE 5 RESULTS:
1 S. Peterhansel
2 B. Ten Brinke (TOYOTA) +04:52
3 G. De Villiers (TOYOTA) +12:47
4 C. Sainz (Peugeot) +18:10
5 N. Al Attiyah (TOYOTA) +24:33
6 O. Terranova (Mini) +24:38
7 Sk. K. Al Qassimi (Peugeot) +25:39
8 P. Sireyjol (Buggy) +33:16
9 C. Despres (Peugeot) +37:36
10 J. Przygonski +41:13
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 5:
1 S. Peterhansel (Peugeot) 13:27:26
2 C. Sainz (Peugeot) +00:31:16
3 B. Ten Brinke (TOYOTA) +01:15:16
4 N. Al Attiyah (TOYOTA) +01:23:21
5 G. De Villiers (TOYOTA) +01:34:34
6 Sk. Al Qassimi (Peugeot) +01:46:48
7 E. Amos (Buggy) +02:01:57
8 J. Przygonski (Mini) +02:16:43
9 M. Prokop (Ford) +02:17:27
10 P. Sireyjol (Buggy) +02:58:22