Dakar 2020, Stage 1: Shock win for Zala, Alonso 11th

Mini driver Vaidotas Zala claimed a shock maiden stage win in the first test of the 2020 Dakar Rally, as two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso placed 11th.

Toyota’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for most of the 319km timed special on the coastal stage from Jeddah to Al Wajh that kicked off the first ever Saudi Arabia-based Dakar.But the Qatari suffered three punctures late on, paving the way for an upset.

With the X-raid Mini buggies of past rally winners Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz Sr having both lost several minutes early on, the privateer Peugeot of Khalid Al Qassimi and Zala’s Mini assumed the leading positions heading into the final stretch of the test.

And though former World Rally Championship regular Al Qassimi suffered a late setback and lost over a quarter of an hour, Zala held firm to clinch the stage win by two minutes over Peterhansel.

Sainz made it a Mini 1-2-3 behind Zala and Peterhansel, while Al-Attiyah mitigated the damage from his late-stage travails in fourth place, 5m33s off the pace.

Bernhard ten Brinke was Al-Attiyah’s next best Toyota squadmate, finishing a minute behind in fifth and followed by the other big surprise in the top 10 – Mathieu Serradori in a South African-developed Century CR6 buggy.

Yazeed Al Rajhi began his first home Dakar with eighth place in his Overdrive Toyota, but more or less matched the leaders’ pace after losing time in the early kilometres.

Alonso in 11th was 15 minutes and 27 seconds off the pace set by the leader in his first-ever Dakar stage.

It proved a tougher day for past Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma, with both the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver – who finished with a slow puncture – and the new Borgward recruit losing more than 20 minutes.

Two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas, who had previous outings in a privateer Peugeot, took the start in a DXX buggy developed by his RD Limited team.

But the factory Porsche GT racer dropped out just over 65km into the event as his car caught fire and he was forced to climb out.

The other DXX, campaigned under the Rebellion banner by the LMP1 team’s owner Alexandre Pesci, remains in the race.

Stage results (top 10):

Pos. # Driver / Co-driver Car Time Gap
1 319 Lithuania Vaidotas Zala

Lithuania Saulius Jurgelenas

Mini 3h19m04s
2 302 France Stephane Peterhansel
Portugal Paulo Fiuza
Mini 3h21m18s 2m14s
3 305 Spain Carlos Sainz

Spain Lucas Cruz

Mini 3h21m54s 2m50s
4 300 Qatar Nasser Al-Attiyah

France Mathieu Baumel

Toyota 3h24m37s 5m33s
5 307 Netherlands Bernhard ten Brinke

Belgium Tom Colsoul

Toyota 3h25m34s 6m30s
6 315 France Mathieu Serradori

Belgium Fabian Lurquin

Century 3h25m59s 6m55s
7 311 Argentina Orlando Terranova

Argentina Bernardo Graue

Mini 3h26m19s 7m15s
8 309 Saudi Arabia Yazeed Al-Rajhi

Russian Federation Konstantin Zhiltsov

Toyota 3h30m50s 11m46s.
9 317 Russian Federation Vladimir Vasilyev

Ukraine Vitaly Yevtyekhov

Mini 3h32m29s 13m25s
10 314 Netherlands Erik van Loon

France Sebastien Delaunay

Source: Motorsport.com