It was another high altitude stage on Dakar 2016, as the crews tackled the 542 km Stage 6. For Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, the extreme altitudes of Bolivia’s high planes made it challenging to compete with the turbo-charged cars in the field. Even so Yazeed al Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk (#305) proved that the Toyota Hilux can certainly compete at any altitude.
Yazeed, who had been laid low by the effects of the high altitudes yesterday, bounced back on Stage 6 to post the 3rd-fastest time. He was only 07:19 off the pace set by stage-winner Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), and clearly fighting back after losing time on Stage 5.
“It is a pity that I felt so ill the previous two days,” said Yazeed from the bivouac at Uyuni. “But now I am much better, the Hilux is good, and we are ready to take the fight to the crews in front of us.”
Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (#301) maintained a steady pace on the stage, though they lost some time when they stopped to assist Toyota Gazoo Racing SA teammates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie. De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz are now in 5th place overall.
Poulter/Howie (#319) started the day in 5th position overall, but ran slightly wide on a sharp corner early in the stage. Their Toyota Hilux made contact with a fence, ripping one of the support posts from the ground. The post swung around the car still tied to a piece of wire, and punched a hole in the windscreen right in front of Howie, who wasn’t injured in the accident.
With their windscreen in tatters, the pair struggled to commit on the stage, and steadily lost time. They tried to push, however, and at the 450 km mark fell victim to a tightening right-hander. Their Toyota Hilux made contact with a bank on the outside of the corner, and gently rolled over onto its side.
The pair quickly prepared a tow rope, and flagged down De Villiers as he approached. Within moments the Hilux was back on its wheels, and they continued to the end of the stage without further incident. They lost 23:37 over the stage winner today, and are now in 7th place overall.
“To have all three of our cars in the top ten is very satisfying,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal Glyn Hall from the high altitude bivouac near the Bolivian town of Uyuni. “Now that we’re heading to lower altitudes again, we are confident going forward, and will certainly push very hard on the second half of the race.”
For Overdrive Toyota’s Bernhard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul, the Dakar turned into a nightmare on Stage 6. The pair, who won the prologue of this year’s Dakar on January 2nd, suffered a puncture just 15 km from the end of the stage. They stopped and replaced the tyre, placing the punctured tyre in the bay below the cockpit where one of the spares is carried. Unbeknownst to them, the tyre had caught alight after puncturing, and it set their race car on fire. Sadly, the Toyota Hilux was totally destroyed by the ensuing fire, but the crew escaped unharmed.
After two days in Bolivia, the Dakar returns to the lower altitudes of Argentina for Stage 7, though the first part of the stage is still run at high altitudes in Bolivia. In total the crews will cover 336 km of stage distance, though there is also a long liaison of 481 km to complete, in addition to completing formalities at the border. It is a long day in the saddle, but Stage 7 is followed by the rest day in Salta, which will be very welcome after the harsh conditions of Bolivia.
Stage 7 also marks the start of the march southward for Dakar 2016, and is also the halfway mark of the 13-stage race. It all draws to a close on January 16th, in the Argentine city of Rosario