Stage 7 of the 2022 Dakar Rally brought disappointment for Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy. The pair were lying in 4th position overall mid-way through the rally, after a tumultuous opening week filled with drama. But a broken oil pipe put paid to their podium aspirations, just 130km into the 402km-long stage between Riyadh and Al Dawadimi.
At the same time, teammates Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel maintained their position at the top of the overall standings, though their lead decreased to 44min 59sec when they lost 5min 26sec to the stage winners.
Nasser and Mathieu recorded a clean run through the tough stage, which was peppered with tricky navigational decisions. Even so, they were overly cautious in the opening sections, but matched the time of the stage winners through the second half of the timed section. They’ll start Stage 8 – which has been billed by the organisers as ‘the toughest of this year’s Dakar’ – as the second car on the road, giving them the opportunity to control their pace somewhat, rather than trying to attack while opening the road.
Had the oil pipe stayed in place on the new GR DKR Hilux T1+ of Giniel and Dennis, Nasser may well have had two teammates for company on Stage 8. Initially, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings set a blistering pace, quickly racing into the lead of the stage. But their charge was halted when they spotted Giniel and Dennis, who had themselves been running at a highly competitive pace, which was clearly good enough to secure a podium position in the overall standings.
Unfortunately, Giniel and Dennis were forced to halt around the 130km mark, after their engine oil disappeared into the desert sands of Saudi Arabia. They set about repairing their stricken car, and were joined shortly after by Henk and Brett who came to the aid of their teammates, showing exemplary sportsmanship. The four-man team managed to repair the Hilux, and secured engine oil from a number of good Samaritan competitors, before driving to the end of the stage together.
This diversion cost Henk and Brett 44min 42sec on the stage, leaving them in 36th place overall, 10hr 22min 38sec behind Nasser and Mathieu. Since Giniel and Dennis were ahead of Henk on the road for Stage 7, the incident meant a time loss of 1hr 0min 44sec for them, plunging them from 4th in the overall standings to 8th place, 1hr 47min 14sec off the leaders, and well out of contention for a podium position.
Stage 7 brought another solid performance by Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen, their only setbacks coming from navigational challenges along the long stage. They were forced to circle around and hunt for waypoints on two occasions, losing 10min in the process. Their total time loss for the day was 18min 36sec, and they remain in 17th place overall, trailing the leaders by 3hr 11min 7sec.
The 2022 Dakar Rally continues its march to Jeddah tomorrow, with a 395km-long special stage between Al Dawadimi and Wadi Ad Dawasir. Crews can expect a sea of dunes during the first half of the stage, before tricky navigation again comes into play during the latter parts. Liaisons totalling 435km will join the stage to the bivouacs, making Stage 8 one of the longest of the event.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “What a day at the Dakar! Stage 7 was the first one after the Rest Day, and it brought plenty of drama. But first the good news: We’re still leading the Dakar, thanks to Nasser and Mathieu, who didn’t put a foot wrong today. They lost a few minutes to the chasing pack, but are in a good position for the next stage. The big upset came with Giniel and Dennis, when an oil pipe blew on their car. In the end, it cost them the better part of an hour, even with the help of teammates Henk and Brett, who had stopped to assist. While we’re bitterly disappointed with this, especially given the fact that Giniel was looking good for a podium position, we are proud of the camaraderie and fighting spirit of our crews. Shameer and Danie also soldiered on, recording a solid performance.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Yes, it was a really difficult stage, and I think we were a bit sleepy during the first 100km. We lost 5min to Seb (Loeb) early on, but after the mid-point of the stage, we matched his pace to the finish. Overall, I’m quite happy after seven stages, and since Seb will open the road tomorrow, we should be in a good position to control the race.”
Shameer Variawa: “The stage was very tricky in terms of navigation. There were lots of rocks, but also some open sections, where we could push. But the tough navigation really tested the co-drivers. Just 10km into the stage, we took a wrong fork and lost about 5min. The same thing happened just after the decontrol section, so in total we lost about 10min just hunting for tracks.”
Giniel de Villiers: “I don’t know what to do to get our luck to change. It really is unbelievable. We started off nicely, but at the 130km mark the main oil pipe came off, and all the engine oil pumped out in about 10sec. I killed the engine immediately, and Dennis and I started working on fixing the problem.
“A big thanks to teammates Henk and Brett who stopped to help us, and also to my co-driver Dennis, who did an amazing job. He is very gifted with mechanical things, but it still took a long time to get the frayed pipe back onto the fitting. Once the job was done we had to get oil, as we had only about 1.5 litres of the 12 litres that the engine needs on board with us.
“Henk and Brett gave us what they had, and then Chris Visser stopped and helped us with about four litres. One of the Overdrive Toyota guys also helped, but that still left us way short. We decided to continue, but the oil pressure dropped in right-hand turns, and we had to take it really easy. It was a challenging stage, and I have to say it is also disappointing. We were challenging for a podium position and now we’re barely in the Top 10.”
Henk Lategan: “While we’re still here to finish the race, we’re not fighting for a position anymore. So whatever we can do to help the rest of our team, we’ll do. Our day started with some good pace, and my aim was to achieve a good road position for tomorrow’s stage. But then we saw Giniel next to the track with a problem, so we stopped to help him. It was quite a big job, and we gave them all of our spare oil. Once they got going again, we drove together through the stage to make sure they reached the end. It was a team game today, but that’s part of racing.”
Stage 7 Results:
1. Loeb (FRA) / Lurquin (BEL) Bahrain Raid Xtreme 3hr 9min 32sec
2. Al-Attiyah (QAT) / Baumel (AND) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +5min 26sec
3. Sainz (ESP) / Cruz (ESP) Team Audi Sport +7min 43sec
4. Peterhansel (FRA) / Boulanger (FRA) Team Audi Sport +9min 40sec
5. Al Raji (SAU) / Orr (GBR) Overdrive Toyota +10min 3sec
Rankings after Stage 7:
1. Al-Attiyah (QAT) / Baumel (AND) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 23hr 52min 22sec
2. Loeb (FRA) / Lurquin (BEL) Bahrain Raid Xtreme +44min 59sec
3. Al Rajhi (SAU) / Orr (GBR) Overdrive Toyota +53min 31sec
4. Alvarez (ARG) / Monleon (ESP) Overdrive Toyota +1hr 15min 9sec
5. Przygonski (POL) / Gottschalk (DEU) X-Raid Mini JCW Team +1hr 30min 4sec