HILUX DAMAGED: SA team Toyota Gazoo Racing grabbed an early lead at the 2017 Dakar has since lost it. Image: QuickPic
San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina - What started as an exciting battle on Stage 3, as former winners Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) and Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot) went head-to-head on the 364km stage, turned to disappointment for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA when Al-Attiyah damaged the suspension of his Toyota Hilux.
Three-minute lead, gone
Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel initially trailed Peterhansel, but then plied on the pressure by building a lead of nearly three minutes. This gave them the outright lead of the Dakar, and they were clearly on course to notch up a second stage win on this year’s race.
Unfortunately, their spectacular charge ground to a halt when they ripped the right rear wheel off their vehicle, after driving through a deep hole between waypoints seven and eight.
EXCLUSIVE: Toyota Gazoo Racing speaks on 'unusually fast' Stage 2
After reaching the bivouac at San Salvador de Jujuy. Al-Attiyah said: “It was a fantastic stage for us. Right until we damaged the car. Up to that point, we were enjoying the race against Peterhansel, and we were very happy to see that we were setting the pace in the middle part of the stage. In the end the result is very disappointing for us, but the car ran as good as ever and we are looking forward to challenging for stage wins as the race continues.”
De Villiers also suffers problems
Team mates Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz also lost time on today’s stage, though their deficit was restricted to 36 minutes, as opposed to the two hours lost by Al-Attiyah/Baumel.
De Villiers commented: “We initially lost time with navigation, but once we found the correct route, we were able to hold our position. Unfortunately we then had a fuel pressure problem near the end of the stage, and lost more time working through the issue. We got going again, and managed to complete the stage.”
READ: Dakar 2017 - Toyota SA continues solid performance in Stage 2
Nani Roma posted the best time by a Toyota Hilux on the stage, which was eventually won by Peterhansel. Roma finished the stage in 8th place, 13min16sec behind the winner.
Up next is Stage 4, which sees the Dakar depart Argentina for five days of racing in Bolivia, as well as the rest day in La Paz. The stage itself starts in Argentina, before crossing into Bolivia, and features a total distance of 521km. The race continues to climb onto the high plains of Bolivia, and Stage 4 peaks at an altitude of 4000m.Image: QuickPic