With the rest day behind them, the crews taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally faced their next challenge: The longest stage of the event, between the Saudi capital of Riyadh and the town of Wadi Al Dawasir to the south. The special stage was run over a distance of 546km, and while some small dunes allowed the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews to attack in the first section, the stage offered nearly 250 km of flat out racing, which favoured the higher top speeds of the two-wheel-drive MINIs.
The stage was marred by the death of motorcyclist Paulo Gonçalves, after a heavy crash. The 40-year old Portuguese racer has taken part in the Dakar Rally since 2006, and he recorded four Top 10 finishes. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing extends its sincere condolences to Gonçalves’ family and friends.
“Paulo’s death came as a big shock to the entire Dakar fraternity, including our team,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the bivouac at Wadi Al Dawasir. “But Paulo loved the sport and would have wanted us to continue, so that’s what we’ll be doing.”
Stage 7 saw Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Alex Haro lose 10min 19sec to stage winner Carlos Sainz (MINI). De Villiers injured his neck during Stage 5 of the rally, and the injury has caused some pain and discomfort during the longest stage of the race.
“We also struggled with the top speed of the Hilux, which simply cannot match the two-wheel-drive buggies for outright pace,” said the man from Stellenbosch. “We really need some more technical terrain, so that we can use the Toyota’s four-wheel-drive abilities to attack.”
De Villiers’ sentiments were bourne out by teammates Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, who used the small dunes at the start of the stage to their benefit. The pair quickly moved into the lead on the stage, showing the prowess of the South African-built Toyota Hilux, before surrendering their advantage when the stage opened up. In the end, Al-Attiyah/Baumel lost 2min 12sec to the hard-charging Sainz, and are now 10min 00sec behind in the overall standings.
“We decided to make some modifications to the aerodynamic package on Bernhard’s car for Stage 7,” continued Hall. “This clearly paid off, as Bernhard and Tom came home just 46sec behind Nasser and Mathieu today. We’ll be putting the same measures in place for the rest of the team for the remainder of the rally.”
Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma had a good run in Stage 7, despite suffering a delaminated tyre, which cost them more than 1min 30sec. They recorded the 6th-fastest time on the day, losing 7min 49sec to the stage winner, but doing enough to move up to 14th in the overall rankings. This places all four TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews inside the Top 15, with five stages to go.
Stage 8 is a looped stage, which starts and ends near Wadi Al Dawasir. The stage features 239km of liaisons, together with 477km of timed racing over fast, hard-packed terrain. This will again benefit the two-wheel-drives, but the closing four stages may suit the four-wheel-drive cars more.
2020 Dakar Rally Stage 7 Results:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +2min 12sec
4th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +2min 58sec
6th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +7min 49sec
7th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +10min 19sec
2020 Dakar Rally Overall Results After Stage 7:
2nd No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +10min 00sec
6th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +1hrs 5min 58sec
7th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +1hr 15min 56sec
14th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +3hrs 26min 02sec