After two of the longest stages on Dakar 2018, all three Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews arrived safely at the flooded bivouac outside the Bolivian town of Tupiza. With the technical crews setting up on the roadside, there was relief all round as the crews arrived one after the other.
Bear in mind that Stage 8 saw the race crews overnight unsupported in Uyuni, so there was every reason to breathe a sigh of relief as they successfully completed the 498 km-long stage between Uyuni and Tupiza. It was also the first opportunity for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, to catch up with his drivers.
“We are very pleased that all three our cars performed so well in this tough section of the race,” he said from the makeshift bivouac near Tupiza. “The only disappointment was that Giniel and Dirk got stuck this morning, which cost them the best part of 20 minutes.”
De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz had a great run up to Uyuni, setting the second-fastest time on Stage 8. This meant that they were the second car on the road for Stage 9, but unfortunately ended up stuck in a deep hole on the off-road section.
“It was such a close call,” explained De Villiers from Tupiza. “I saw the hole a moment too late to avoid it, and then tried to power through. We very nearly made it, but ended up getting stuck in a precarious position. We had to take out the spare wheels, jack up the car and move it bit by bit using the spare wheels as a foundation. We eventually got going again, but had a puncture mid-way through the stage. Other than that, we actually had a good run, and were able to run at the same pace as the leaders.”
Up ahead, Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke, paired with French navigator Michel Périn, set the fourth-fastest time on Stage 8, trailing eventual stage winner Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot) by 05:00. The Dutchman reported a clean run on the stage, and remains within reach of the podium.
But the drive of the day, as far as Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is concerned, came from Qatari star Nasser Al Attiyah and French navigator Mathieu Baumel. The pair drove a faultless stage to finish just two minutes adrift of Peterhansel, and 01:22 behind Peugeot’s Cyril Despres, who is well out of contention in the event, but certainly proved his pace on Stage 8.
“As usual with the Hilux, we had no drama,” said Al Attiyah. “The car feels strong, and we had a clean stage. This leaves us in second place at the moment, still ahead of Peterhansel, with at least two very difficult stages to come.”
With that said, Stage 9 of Dakar 2018 has been cancelled due to local flooding, which means the Dakar moves from Bolivia to Argentina without a racing stage. Next up, then, is Stage 10, which takes place between Salta and Belen. Dakar regulars will recognize the names of Belen and Fiambala – two of the most fearsome stages on the Dakar, and this year they will be run as Stages 10 and 11.
“While we’re happy to get an extra day of rest instead of taking on Stage 9, we are also disappointed to lose an opportunity to make a difference in this year’s race,” concluded Hall. “But the next two stages that lie in wait can still have a massive influence, and with our cars currently in second, fourth and fifth, we have every reason to remain confident.”
STAGE 8 RESULTS:
1 S. Peterhansel (Peugeot) 05:15:18
2 C. Despres (Peugeot) +00:49
3 N. Al Attiyah (TOYOTA) +02:12
4 B. Ten Brinke (TOYOTA) +05:00
5 C. Sainz (Peugeot) +07:04
6 O. Terranova (Mini) +10:00
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 8:
1 C. Sainz (Peugeot) 27:04:00
2 N. Al Attiyah (TOYOTA) +01:06:37
3 S. Peterhansel (Peugeot) +01:13:42
4 B. Ten Brinke (TOYOTA) +01:23:00
5 G. De Villiers (TOYOTA) +01:37:09
6 J. Przygonski (Mini) +02:28:36