Al-Attiyah, De Villiers and Roma hold second, fourth and fith places for Toyota after second Dakar stage

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SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMÁN (ARGENTINA) – Tuesday, January 3: Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa and Overdrive Racing maintained three positions inside the top five after the punishing heat of the second 275km special stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucumán in Argentina on Tuesday.

After hot, humid and muddy conditions on the opening stage, the searing, dry heat of the second high-speed special saw temperatures rise into the forties, although modern cross-country cars now have air conditioning systems in operation.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel opened the road in the first of eight official Toyota Hiluxes after their stage win on Monday. The minor oil leak that had caused a scare at the stage end was repaired overnight and the duo were the first crew through PC1, after 120km.

The Qatari, a two-time winner of the Dakar, maintained a superb pace throughout the stage, despite running first on the road, and posted the target time of 2hr 06min 55sec. This was sufficient for the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa driver to record the second fastest time, although he slipped 28 seconds behind the stage-winning Frenchman Sébastien Loeb in the overall rankings.

South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz also delivered a consistent performance in the second Toyota Gazoo Racing car and the fourth quickest time elevated the South African to fourth overall.

The Spanish crew of Joan Roma and Alex Haro were also on an excellent pace throughout the stage and Roma carded the fifth quickest time and held a similar position in the overall rankings in his Overdrive Toyota.

The Dutch crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar climbed a place to ninth in the overall rankings in the second of the Overdrive cars to ensure that Toyota maintained four cars inside the top 10.

Dakar rookie Rautenbach climbs a place to 14th

Dakar rookie Conrad Rautenbach has teamed up with the experienced South African navigator Robert Howie and the Zimbabwean belied his lack of Dakar experience to record the 14th quickest time, which enabled the former WRC star to move up a place in the overall standings in his Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux.

The French pairing of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot safely negotiated the rigours of the day’s special in 21st to hold a similar position in the rankings.

Alejandro Yacopini and Daniel Merlo crewed the seventh of the Toyota Hiluxes and the Argentinean duo were classified in 32nd at the night halt. The all-Chinese pairing of He Zhitao and Kai Zhao are running under the Boundless Young Team banner and climbed eight places in the rankings to 36th overall.

TODAY AND TOMORROW

After a long liaison across the heart of the Grand Chaco, the day’s special stage of 275km started near the town of Monte Quemado in the Province of Santiago Del Estero. The tracks round their way through three passage control points to finish to the east of the city of San Miguel de Tucumán and a short liaison took teams to the bivouac. The trucks shared the special with the motorcycles, cars and quads for the first section before the trucks switched to an alternative route and returned to the common track at PC1.

On Wednesday (tomorrow), the route of the Dakar begins a steady climb into the foothills of the Andes with a special stage between San Miguel de Tucumán and San Salvador de Jujuy. Trucks will tackle a radically different special to the rest of the field, but the cars will compete over 364 competitive kilometres in a day’s route of 780km.

WHAT THEY SAID:

JEAN-MARC FORTIN, CEO OF OVERDRIVE RACING
“It was a very fast stage and a lot of straights, which eliminated the need for a driving style. There were radar zones and then straights again. We know the speed of the Peugeot is over 200 (km/h) and they were edging in front at each of the waypoints on this stage. But we have three cars inside the top five still. We are there and Erik (Van Loon) also is ninth today. It’s okay. I am quite happy because a good gap was made with the other two Peugeots and we are right in the middle of the fight.”

NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH – Car 301
“Yesterday was bad luck, a small piece of the engine and the oil, but okay the guys worked all night and fixed the car very well. Today we started as the first car and I think we did a really good job. It was very dangerous. There were lots of big holes, water in some places and a lot of animals. For me, if I open the road tomorrow it would have been okay, but our plan was to not open the road and to start second or third and that will be a good position for tomorrow.”

GINIEL DE VILLIERS – Car 302
“The day was quite hot and it was a very, very fast stage. The first 100km was fast with very big ditches in bad places. We had one moment where we took a big hit on the nose. We had to take care not to make a mistake. But, for sure, it was a good stage today for the buggy. A couple of times I had to slow down from a very high speed to slow down for some cows, horses and donkeys, but you know it’s like that. Towards the end, it was quite tricky passing all the bikes because the wind was blowing with us and we really had to take care. I hope that we are in the fight with the Peugeots. It looks like it at the moment. Obviously, Sébastien was quite fast today, but I thought it was going to be fast since it’s a really flat out stage. It doesn’t look too bad and we look forward to tomorrow.”

JOAN ROMA – Car 305
“The start of the stage was quite stressful because everyone was flat out. It was difficult. Afterwards, we had a problem because I didn’t have any more water to clean the windscreen, but I didn’t understand what was wrong. We were approaching the muddy part, so that perturbed me and made me a bit nervous. In the end, everything was okay and this first proper stage was okay. I’m happy with the car and the pace that we are managing to drive at the beginning of this Dakar.”