Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed victory on Stage 9 of Dakar 2019 to extend his lead with just one stage to go, while the chasing pack was sliced wide open.
Mini driver Stéphane Peterhansel, for instance, was forced to retire thanks to an injury to his navigator David Castera, while Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb lost plenty of time stuck early in the stage.
Loeb thus fell one place to third in the overall standings, with Mini’s Nani Roma in second behind Al-Attiyah. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers finished the stage in third place in his Hilux, just behind Roma on the day.
Cyril Despres rolled his Mini in the dunes, while 2018 champion Carlos Sainz (also in a Mini) didn’t even start the stage after his vehicle suffered a transmission failure.
“In the end, the stage played right into our hands,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal, Glyn Hall. “But Nasser and Giniel stuck to our own game plan, and delivered exactly what we needed – two cars home with no problems, a healthy lead and just one stage to go.”
“It is difficult to focus on anything beyond Nasser and Mathieu leading the rally with one stage to go,” said Hall. “But the reality is that we now have four of our South African-built Toyota Hilux race cars in the top 10, including Giniel who is up to eighth.”
The other two Hilux drivers are Ronan Chabot in ninth and Benediktas Vanagas in tenth.
Al-Attiyah added that it was “a great comfort to me to know that Giniel and [navigator] Dirk [von Zitzewitz] were following us closely. As we saw today, anything can happen on the Dakar.”
So, all that remains of Dakar 2019 is a relatively short stage of 112 km, which will start and finish at the bivouac in Pisco. The stage will be run in reverse order, with the last of the crews going off first, before the leaders take to the sand for the final time.
“But don’t let the short stage fool you,” warned Hall. “We saw today how fickle the Dakar can be – so we’ll be holding our breath until the Hilux is safely out of the stage. With that said, we’re doing everything we can to make sure both Nasser and Giniel’s cars are well prepared for the final stage. Beyond that, all we can do is hope that the crews come through without any major problems.”
Stage 9 results:
1. Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
2. Roma (Mini): +04:58
3. De Villiers (Toyota): +07:15
4. Przygonski (Mini): +14:01
5. Vanagas (Toyota): +15:45
6. Prokop (Ford): +32:59
7. Al Rajhi (Mini): +33:25
8. Despres (Mini): +39:46
9. Van Loon (Toyota): +45:56
10. Krotov (Mini): +46:42
1. Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
2. Roma (Mini): +51:27
3. Loeb (Peugeot): +02:02:37
4. Przygonski (Mini): +02:33:51
5. Despres (Mini): +02:55:13
6. Prokop (Ford): +03:29:06
7. Al Rajhi (Mini): +04:28:22
8. De Villiers (Toyota): +07:08:16
9. Chabot (Toyota): +08:11:46
10. Vanagaz (Toyota): +08:15:26