By: Wadad hachichou

Overdrive Racing’s Chabot and van Loon complete rally in 23rd and 26th ·

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s De Villiers, Ten Brinke and Alonso in 5th, 7th and 13th  Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing were not able to defend their Dakar Rally title on the event’s first visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but all but one of the eight official cars made it to the finish of the world’s toughest rally in Qiddiya on Friday. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel were the defending champions in the first of four Toyota Gazoo Racing cars and they finished as runners-up behind the newly-crowned three-time champion Carlos Sainz and his co-driver Lucas Cruz.

The Qatari won the final stage to see off the challenge from 13-time champion Stéphane Peterhansel, but a crucial navigational error during the second half of the rally cost the leading Toyota dearly and Al-Attiyah finished 6min 21sec behind the winners, having lost 17 minutes with that one mistake on stage 10.

Overdrive Racing ran four cars for Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Frenchman Ronan Chabot and the Dutch duo of Erik van Loon and Peter van Merksteijn. Al-Rajhi drove an impressive Dakar to claim fourth overall, while Chabot and Van Loon finished 23rd and 26th after Van Merksteijn had crashed out. Al-Attiyah’s three Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues – Giniel de Villiers, Bernhard Ten Brinke and Fernando Alonso – completed the rally in fifth, seventh and 13th overall, Formula One star Alonso also finishing as top rookie on his debut with Marc Coma sitting alongside, despite several early delays and a roll in the dunes in the second half of the rally. Al-Attiyah said: “I’m quite happy. We did a good job to finish second even though we wanted to win. We made two or three mistakes along the way and had loads of punctures.

It was going well on that 10th stage with no problems. We caught Stéphane and then, at one point, we got a little bit lost for two or three minutes. Then we got to the waypoint and then we took the wrong way. We did around 20km extra. “But I’m rather happy. I’m elated that we are racing here. I’m coming back to win next year. I just needed a bit more luck…” Al-Rajhi and Russian navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov were classified in fourth at the rest day in Riyadh and the fifth quickest time on stage seven enabled them to maintain fourth – a position they held to the finish in Qiddiya after being the fastest crew for short periods on several stages.

The French pairing of Chabot and Gilles Pillot were classified in 12th at the rest day in Riyadh, but slipped to 14th on the seventh stage to Wadi Al Dawasir and to 15th on the subsequent loop stage. As the route turned north towards the remote village of Harath for stage nine, Chabot rolled his Toyota Hilux gently 33km into the stage on a tight corner without injuring either Gilles Pillot or himself.

But a rock tore a front wheel off the Toyota and the crew dropped down the leader board waiting for their support truck to arrive before repairs could be made. The 18th quickest time on the shortened stage into Shubaytah moved them back up to 27th. They then made a gradual progression through the field to reach the finish in Qiddiya in 23rd.

Dutchman Erik van Loon and French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay began the second half of the rally from 43rd overall. A 12th quickest time on SS7 catapulted the Toyota crew up to 38th place and they gained three positions to 35th on day eight. Van Loon was seventh quickest on the first part of the Marathon stage and found himself up to 30th. The impressive stage performances continued and the Dutchman crossed the finish line in 26th. Peter van Merksteijn and new Ulster navigator Michael Orr were 39th at the rest day after their own fair share of week one problems.

But the Dutchman hit back strongly and climbed five places to 34th on stage seven with the 19th quickest time and moved up another five places to 29th on the Wadi Al Dawasir loop. Unfortunately that was as good as it got for Van Merksteijn: he crashed his Toyota 90km into the ninth stage to Harath after a jump, the car shed a wheel and was too badly damaged for the crew to continue. Overdrive Racing also built a Toyota for Spaniards Jesus Calleja and Jaume Aregall. They began the second half of the rally in 34th and maintained that position after the next three stages before reaching the finish in 29th overall.

2020 Dakar Rally – final positions after SS12 (unofficial @14.00hrs):

1. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy 42hr 59min 17sec

2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux 43hr 05min 38sec

3. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy 43hr 09min 15sec

4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 43hr 48min 27sec

5. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Alex Haro (ESP) Toyota Hilux 44hr 06min 26sec

6. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Ronnie Graue (ARG) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 44hr 11min 32sec

7. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota Hilux 44hr 17min 51sec

8. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Fabian Lurquin (BEL) Century Buggy 44hr 58min 38sec

9. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 46hr 41min 34sec

10. Wei Han (CHN)/Min Liao (CHN) Hanwei Motorsport 2WD 46hr 50min 24sec

13. Fernando Alonso (ESP)/Marc Coma (ESP) Toyota Hilux 47hr 42min 04sec

23. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 53hr 34min 27sec

26. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 54hr 32min 02sec

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