Fernando Alonso second fastest on Dakar stage 8 for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
Fernando Alonso and navigator Marc Coma made their mark on the 2020 Dakar Rally posting the second fastest time across the finish line on Stage 8, narrowly missing out on their first-ever stage win by just 4min 4sec. The pair were the fastest of the four TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews on the 477-kilometre looped stage which started and ended at Wadi Al Dawasir.
Ever since they fell back by over two hours because of suspension damage sustained on Stage 2, the pair have consistently posted competitive stage times which shows their determination to push their limits at one of the world’s most challenging motorsport events.
Starting from sixth on the road, Fernando and Marc were in an ideal road position to attack. The crew took full advantage of their road position and a newly improved aerodynamics package, which the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team implemented during the Rest Day. The pair move up to 13th place in the overall standings, just 4min 31sec within reach of Top 10 at Fernando’s first-ever Dakar Rally.
Navigation proved tricky for the front-runners following the cancellation of the stage of motorbikes, who would normally leave tracks which the competitors in later categories can follow. Despite posting only the 11th fastest time on Stage 8, Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel managed to close the gap in the overall standings to 6min 40sec. The crew took the lead early on in the stage but lost their advantage after getting stuck on soft sand dunes. Their 11th starting road position for Stage 9 could translate to visibility issues following in the dust of competitors. Nevertheless, the crew will hope to make further progress in their Dakar Rally title defence.
It was a welcome return to the top of the timing sheets for Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro who posted the fourth fastest time, trailing the leaders by 6min 29sec. The crew reported a clean run on the stage to hold on to their sixth place in the overall standings, just 10 minutes from fifth and will be aiming to reduce the gap in the coming days.
Bernhard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul had a narrow escape on Stage 8 as an errand rock not only punctured their front right tyre but also punched a hole through a part of the chassis of their Hilux. The impact resulted in a hole in the dry sump tank. The crew lost time to change the tyre but decided to push on despite the damage and completed the stage in the seventh fastest time, 10min 19sec behind the winners. The Hilux continued to run without problems and carried the crew safely back to the bivouac for repairs.
Stage 9 will take crews from the town of Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh, in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia. Crews are expecting more sand and hard track over the 410-kilometre special stage with the route totalling 868 kilometres making it the longest day of the 2020 Dakar Rally.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “What a day it was! We initially thought that Fernando had won the stage, which would have been great for the team and also great for Fernando and Marc. But in the end it wasn’t to be, although their result was still fantastic; and they showed their true mettle. This was a proper stage, which is what we’ve been hoping for. Even though Nasser’s start position wasn’t great, having to open after the leaders got stuck, they managed to close the gap to the lead to under seven minutes.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (No. 300): “It was actually not a bad day for us. But it was very tricky out there with lots of soft sand dunes. We tried to do our best, but we had to open the route for the last 150 kilometres again. I knew I was losing time, because there were no tracks at all. Overall, I think we did a good job today, and we’ll have a good starting position for tomorrow. While there are still four stages left, our plan is to push really hard on tomorrow’s stage.”
Giniel de Villiers (No. 304): “In the first part of the stage, we had some issues with the front brakes, which came and went; but other than that it was a good stage. We just had to stay clean, not get stuck and deal with some tricky navigation in places. But overall, not a bad stage for us.”
Bernhard ten Brinke (No. 307): “Today was a very exciting day for us. We started in P4, which was a good road position. Without the bikes, however, we only had three sets of tracks ahead of us, but we still pushed quite hard from the beginning and recorded the fastest time to the first waypoint. The rest of the stage was fairly routine, until we hit a rock in the dunes about 200 kilometres from the finish. The rock did a lot of damage, and even though we could smell oil in the cockpit, we decided to push on.”
Fernando Alonso (No. 310): “It was an unbelievable stage! To be competitive on one of these long stages, with dunes and everything, and to be fighting for the victory, was amazing. It’s hard to believe that I got into a rally car for the first time just a couple of months ago, and here I am fighting with the top guys. The Dakar dream keeps getting better and better; and there wasn’t a downside in any of the last few stages, as we keep climbing in the positions. Top 7, then Top 5 and now second, so we really can’t ask anything more from the Toyota Hilux, the team or from Marc. I think we all have good momentum now and I just want to keep going.”
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 55sec
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
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