Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah finished as runners-up in the 42nd Dakar Rally which was held in Saudi Arabia. Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel were the defending champions in the first of four Toyota Gazoo Racing cars and they finished as runners-up behind the newly-crowned three-time champion Carlos Sainz and his co-driver Lucas Cruz.
Al Attiyah won the final stage to see off the challenge from 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel, but a crucial navigational error during the second half of the rally cost the leading Toyota dearly and Al Attiyah finished 6min 21sec behind the winners, having lost 17 minutes with that one mistake on stage 10.
Overdrive Racing ran four cars for Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Frenchman Ronan Chabot and the Dutch duo of Erik van Loon and Peter van Merksteijn. Al-Rajhi drove an impressive Dakar to claim fourth overall, while Chabot and Van Loon finished 23rd and 26th after Van Merksteijn had crashed out.
Al Attiyah's three Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues - Giniel de Villiers, Bernhard Ten Brinke and Fernando Alonso - completed the rally in fifth, seventh and 13th overall, Formula One star Alonso also finishing as top rookie on his debut with Marc Coma sitting alongside, despite several early delays and a roll in the dunes in the second half of the rally.
Al Attiyah said: "I'm quite happy. We did a good job to finish second even though we wanted to win. We made two or three mistakes along the way and had loads of punctures. It was going well on that 10th stage with no problems. We caught Stphane and then, at one point, we got a little bit lost for two or three minutes. Then we got to the waypoint and then we took the wrong way. We did around 20km extra.
"But I'm rather happy. I'm elated that we are racing here. Im coming back to win next year. I just needed a bit more luck..."
The French pairing of Chabot and Gilles Pillot were classified in 12th at the rest day in Riyadh, but slipped to 14th on the seventh stage to Wadi Al Dawasir and to 15th on the subsequent loop stage.
As the route turned north towards the remote village of Harath for stage nine, Chabot rolled his Toyota Hilux gently 33km into the stage on a tight corner without injuring either Gilles Pillot or himself. But a rock tore a front wheel off the Toyota and the crew dropped down the leader board waiting for their support truck to arrive before repairs could be made.
The 18th quickest time on the shortened stage into Shubaytah moved them back up to 27th. They then made a gradual progression through the field to reach the finish in Qiddiya in 23rd.
Dutchman Erik van Loon and French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay began the second half of the rally from 43rd overall. A 12th quickest time on SS7 catapulted the Toyota crew up to 38th place and they gained three positions to 35th on day eight.
Van Loon was seventh quickest on the first part of the Marathon stage and found himself up to 30th. The impressive stage performances continued and the Dutchman crossed the finish line in 26th.
Peter van Merksteijn and new Ulster navigator Michael Orr were 39th at the rest day after their own fair share of week one problems. But the Dutchman hit back strongly and climbed five places to 34th on stage seven with the 19th quickest time and moved up another five places to 29th on the Wadi Al Dawasir loop.
Unfortunately that was as good as it got for Van Merksteijn: he crashed his Toyota 90km into the ninth stage to Harath after a jump, the car shed a wheel and was too badly damaged for the crew to continue.
Overdrive Racing also built a Toyota for Spaniards Jesus Calleja and Jaume Aregall. They began the second half of the rally in 34th and maintained that position after the next three stages before reaching the finish in 29th overall.
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