SOLID SLIDE: SA team, Toyota Gazoo Racing, aims to win the the 2017 Dakar Rally. Image: QuickPIc
San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina - Stage 2 of Dakar 2017 saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA bank another good performance, with Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel (#301) posting the second-fastest time of the day.
Team mates Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (#302) was fourth-fastest, and are currently in fourth place in the overall standings, 2min05 behind new rally leader Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot).
Stage of mix surfaces
The 275km-long stage was preceded by a liaison of 444km, taking the crews from the Argentine town of Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucuman. The stage itself offered a mix of surfaces, and took place at only 200m above sea level.
Al-Attiyah/Baumel, who won Stage 1 of Dakar 2017 on January 2nd, pushed throughout the stage, but saw their overall rally lead slip into the hands of Peugeot rival Loeb. The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew is only 28 seconds behind the new rally leader, despite the Frenchman winning today’s stage by 1min23.
READ: Dakar 2017 - Team Toyota SA wins opening stage
Al-Attiyah said after reaching the bivouac in San Miguel de Tucumán: “We tried to push when we could. The good news is our Toyota Hilux ran without a single problem today, which is a relief after yesterday’s scare.”
Al-Attiyah/Baumel’s race vehicle suffered a small engine fire at the end of Stage 1, which was reason for concern as much as their opening stage victory was reason for celebration. The technical crew worked into the night to ensure that the Toyota Hilux was in perfect condition for Stage 2, and the effort clearly paid off.
De Villiers making progress
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz felt confident after recording the fifth-fastest time on Stage 1. This gave them a good road position for Stage 2, and the pair were happy to record the fourth-fastest time of the day. It also pushed them up to fourth in the overall standings, 1min32 behind team mates Al-Attiyah/Baumel.
De Villiers said after the stage: “It was a good stage for us today, and the car felt absolutely perfect. We completed the stage just a single second slower than Carlos Sainz (Peugeot), clearly showing how good the 2017 Toyota Hilux really is.”
For Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal, Glyn Hall, the opening stages have brought a mix of emotions: “We were so pleased to win the opening stage, only to have our elation dampened by Nasser’s engine bay fire. We quickly overcame that and prepared the car for Stage 2, and now the race crews have delivered two solid performances.
"Additionally, it seems that Stage 2 was much more suited to the buggies: It was flat, with long straights and plenty of grip - all elements that work for them. This was further borne out by the unusually high average stage speed of 120km/h.”
READ: Dakar 2017 - All systems go for Toyota Gazoo Racing
Next up is the climb to altitude, as Stage 3 takes the crews from the bivouac at San Miguel de Tucumán up to San Salvador de Jujuy, with the altitude peaking at 5000m near the end of the stage. The total stage distance for the day is 512km, including a special stage of 416km. The stage brings the first high altitude dunes, which will equally challenge both the drivers and the navigators.
This will be the final stage in Argentina, before the Dakar crosses the border into Bolivia for five more days of high altitude racing, as well as the rest day at La Paz.