Stage 2 – Toyota strikes back
Quick Facts: Sea Camp > Alula – 588 km in Total 403km Special 158 km Liaison
This would be the first day where the navigational difficulty would be cranked up a few notches, earning navigators their salaries. The route would snake its way around fields of boulders and rocks, sand wedged between canyons, with some dunes along the route. Sainz was the first to start. The curse of the first starters hanging overhead. Sainz dispelled it with a consistent performance to make it through the stage without any issues.
Sebastien Loeb’s hopes started dwindling when the Frenchman started experiencing punctures (15 in total between him and his teammate), losing 1 hour 26 minutes as a result—requiring him to nurse his Prodrive Hunter back to the finish line. Such is Dakar's cruel nature, squashing his progress made to none.
Sainz’s solid performance meant he would finish the stage in 3rd behind Eric van Loon and Sebastien Delanday, who had bounced back after rolling his Toyota T1+ on the prologue. Fourteen seconds ahead and a first-stage win for Nasser Al-Attiyah. Toyota overall struck back with three cars in the top 10 overall. Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel in P2, Giniel De Villiers and Dennis Murphy jump to P5 within striking distance and the partnership of Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings in P10. Fellow South Africans, Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer continue to hang in there in P9 in their Century C6.
Stage 3 – The big deluge, Toyota climb to top spot, Baragwanath stay in the hunt
Quick Facts: Alula > Ha’il – 668 km 447 km Special 221 km Liaison
If navigation difficulty was increased in Stage 2, the route to Ha’il would see a further level up with mainly desert, facing competitors.
Nasser Al-Attiyah took advantage of Carlos Sainz’s terrible luck after the Spaniard finished 44th for the day, suffering from a rear wheel assembly, which broke, forcing him to stop and do roadside repairs to get his Audi RS e-tron E2s back to the bivouac. This means that even though Al-Attiyah never quite had the best day losing 21 minutes and finishing in P13, he could have been far worse off. However, more on that later.
Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings turned their slow start around with a gritty P2 for the day finishing in front of Orlando Terranova and Alex Haro Bravo finished in P3. The stage win for the day would go to Frenchmen Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq in their Prodrive Hunter.
The stage, however, ended prematurely when the heavens opened up, causing havoc along the way with torrential downpours and presenting some gritty moments of competitors getting stuck in flash flood rivers, needing to be recovered by the first and second in the truck category sacrificing their positions to help those in genuine distress. Such is the spirit of Dakar.
For Al-Attiyah, 13 was a lucky number this time, with luck smiling in his favour, and he jumped to the top of the leaderboard overall. Even Henk Lategan and Brett Cumming’s performance sees him narrowly slip to P11 overall, just short of the top ten, given the consistent results being a key for overall positioning in Dakar. This won't cause them too much fuss, though. Giniel De Villiers and Dennis Murphy sit in P7. Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s consistent tenacity remain an element in this rally. They are currently P5 overall, 26 minutes behind Al-Attiyah. However, Toyota will count itself lucky, but in motorsport, luck is all it takes most of the time.
Words: Brent van der Schyff