Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel continue to lead the 2022 Dakar Rally, though the pair lost 7min 1sec to their nearest challengers on the tricky eighth stage of the race. The 245-mile timed section between Al Dawadimi and Wadi Ad Dawasir saw the race leaders start the stage with a worrying noise in the rear differential of their GR DKR Hilux T1+. While a later investigation revealed that the part was in no danger of failing, the crew elected to play it safe by backing off in the opening 125 miles.
The Qatari driver and his Andorran co-driver surrendered nearly 9min to their rivals at the mid-point but pulled back two minutes over the closing parts of the stage. This sees them leading the rally by 37min 58sec after eight stages, with four stages remaining.
Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings also found the going tough, complaining of an under-performing damper on the left-hand side of their Hilux. They also suffered a puncture early in the stage, but despite this they posted the fifth fastest time. They trailed the stage winners home by 3min 20sec and are now in 35th place in the overall standings, 10hr 15min 29sec behind Al-Attiyah and Baumel.
Stage 8 also brought challenges for the battle-weary Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy. The South Africans fell foul of the rocks early on, suffering a puncture to one of the tyres on their Hilux, before they could continue through the dunes. They also struggled with their car’s dampers, with de Villiers fighting for control throughout the stage. This made it impossible to attack and they lost 9min as a result. Even so, they have moved up into seventh position in the overall standings, 1hr 56 min 5sec behind the lead. More importantly, they are within 15min of the top five, and will be aiming to break into that bracket before the end of the race.
Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen continued their good form on Stage 8. The pair have been steadily improving over the course of the race, after a run of bad luck put a dampener on their opening week. Stage 8 saw them post the 18th-fastest time, 20min 43sec behind the stage winners. But the pair had decided early on not to risk a solid finish by pushing too hard in the tricky conditions. Their strategy paid off, as they are now 14th in the overall standings, just 11 minutes outside the top ten.
Four stages remain in the 2022 Dakar Rally. Stage 9 will see the crews complete a loopwhich starts and ends at the bivouac near Wadi Ad Dawasir. A liaison of 57 miles will take the crews from the bivouac to the start of the 178-mile stage, with another liaison of 68 miles bringing them back to the bivouac. Competitors can expect less sand during, but the mountainous terrain and tricky navigation will ensure a tough test even without many dunes.
The 2022 Dakar Rally is the 44th edition of the event and features 12 competitive stages. The final stages visit bivouacs at Wadi Ad Dawasir and Bisha, before the convoy reaches the coastal city of Jeddah on Friday 14 January.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal
“Today was a real nail-biter for the team. We could see on the tracking that Nasser and Mathieu were nursing some sort of problem, but we weren’t sure what it was until they finished the stage. In the end, it was all good, but we had some worrying moments. Henk and Brett had a good stage, despite their challenges; as did Giniel and Dennis. And Shameer and Danie are simply hitting their stride, recording excellent finishes over the last few stages. We’re looking forward to the last four stages, though this race is definitely far from over.”
“We had a problem right from the start today. We heard something wrong with the rear differential shortly after leaving the bivouac, but we had no choice but to start the stage with the noisy diff. We nursed the car through the first 124 miles, but pushed on a bit over the next 124 miles. We’re really lucky to have finished the stage, losing only 7 minutes in the process.”
“We had a good stage, but we definitely still had some more pace in reserve. Once we reached the decontrol mid-stage, we managed to gauge our performance against the crews around us, and since we’re really aiming to get into the top 10, rather than posting exceptional stage times, we decided to back off just a bit, to ensure that we made it to the finish. When we finished the stage, we were delighted to find that we’d moved up to 14th in the overall standings, and if we manage to perform consistently over the remaining stages, a top 10 position in certainly on the cards.”
Giniel de Villiers:
“This was definitely the toughest stage of the rally so far, especially the first 124 miles. The dunes were really soft and not easy to cross, but the Hilux is really good in the dunes, so we had no problems there. However, we seem to be having some issues with the dampers, as it was almost impossible for me to keep the car on the road. We’ll have a look in the bivouac and see if we can find the cause, but even without the damper problems, this was by far the most difficult stage so far. We also had a puncture early on, but in the end, it was really the dampers that stopped us from attacking.”
“A really tough day and probably the most difficult of the rally so far. We had a puncture early in the stage, while traversing a rocky section. After that it was straight into the dunes, which were really big and flowing. However, something didn’t feel quite right with the left-hand side of the car, and we backed off a bit. In the end, we managed to find all the waypoints and recorded the fifth fastest time, so not a bad day for us.”
Stage 8 Results:
1. Ekstrom (SWE) / Bergkvist (SWE) Team Audi Sport 3hr 43min 21sec
2. Peterhansel (FRA) / Boulanger (FRA) Team Audi Sport +49sec
3. Loeb (FRA) / Lurquin (BEL) Bahrain Raid Xtreme +3min 8sec
4. Sainz (ESP) / Cruz (ESP) Team Audi Sport +3min 11sec
5. Lategan (ZAF) / Cummings (ZAF) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +3min 20sec
9. De Villiers (ZAF) / Murphy (ZAF) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +9min 0sec
11. Al-Attiyah (QAT) / Baumel (AND) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +10min 9sec
18. Variawa (ZAF) / Stassen (ZAF) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +20min 43sec
Rankings after Stage 8:
1. Al-Attiyah (QAT) / Baumel (AND) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 27hr 45min 52sec
2. Loeb (FRA) / Lurquin (BEL) Bahrain Raid Xtreme +37min 58sec
3. Al Rajhi (SAU) / Orr (GBR) Overdrive Toyota +53min 13sec
4. Przygonski (POL) / Gottschalk (DEU) X-Raid Mini JCW Team +1hr 28min 6sec
5. Terranova (ARG) / Carreras (ESP) Bahrain Raid Xtreme +1hr 31min 39sec
7. De Villiers (ZAF) / Murphy (ZAF) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1hr 46min 5sec
14. Variawa (ZAF) / Stassen (ZAF) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +3hr 21min 41sec
35. Lategan (ZAF) / Cummings (ZAF) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +10hr 15min 29sec