Stage 5 of Dakar 2019 saw the crews return from the marathon bivouac at the town of Tacna, where they had to service and repair their own cars, to the bivouac in Arequipa but the massive stage saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel post the second-fastest time on Friday, extending their lead in the overall standings by the best part of 16 minutes.
The Qatari superstar and his French navigator started the stage alongside the stage winner, Stephane Peterhansel (MINI).
It was a classic drag race on the beach, that initially saw the two-wheel-drive buggy set the pace. But that was only the beginning of a 450 km-long battle during which the Toyota Hilux were crew bested only by the Peugeot of Sebastien Loeb.
The French rally legend set the pace throughout the difficult stage, but it was Al Attiyah / Baumel who came away with the biggest smiles as they entrenched themselves at the head of the field.
“We had a very good marathon stage yesterday,” said Al Attiyah after reaching the bivouac at Arequipa.
“The car was in perfect condition despite the long stage, but we decided to moderate our pace somewhat today. Even so, we are happy to have gone second-fastest on the day – and even happier to be leading the Dakar at the halfway mark.”
Stage 5 also saw a consolidation for the remaining Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews, as both Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz and Bernhard ten Brinke / Xavier Panseri posted Top 10 times throughout the stage. This puts both crews in strong positions to support Al Attiyah / Baumel for Stage 6, as well as the remainder of the rally.
“I think we went past 62 cars today,” said Ten Brinke after arriving in Arequipa. “It was difficult, but also very satisfying to be making up ground.”
De Villiers shared Ten Brinke’s sentiment: “We overtook a lot of competitors today, which was needed in order to allow us to do our jobs now, which is to support Nasser and Mathieu in their quest to win the Dakar for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA.”
Next up is the rest day, which marks the midpoint of the rally.
All the race crews will be taking a break on January 12th, giving the technical crews the opportunity to prepare the cars for the final five stages of the race.
“It is a rest day only in name,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the bivouac at Arequipa.
“The race crews may be taking it easy, but the rest of the lads will be hard at work, getting everything ready for the final assault.”
That assault starts with Stage 6 – a 290 km test, followed by a long liaison, which will take the crews back to San Juan de Marcona.
The bivouac there will stay in place for two days, before the route snakes its way to Pisco and onwards to Lima, where the race finishes on January 17th.