By: Valentin Khorounzhiy
The lead drivers of Toyota’s Dakar Rally contingent have dismissed Carlos Sainz’s suggestions that Peugeot had been treated unfairly by rule changes. The 2017 Dakar rulebook has seen Peugeot lose 1mm of air restrictor size for its diesel turbo-engined 3008DKR car, whereas Toyota was allowed a bigger restrictor for the petrol engine of its Hilux.
And after Toyota Gazoo’s Nasser Al-Attiyah comfortably set the pace in the short opening stage on Monday, Sainz said the Qatari’s performance was evidence that the Japanese marque had been given too much of an advantage over Peugeot.
However, when Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb beat Al-Attiyah to the top spot by almost a minute and a half during Tuesday’s 275km run, Toyota drivers in unison reckoned that it was clear the French marque was not shortchanged by the rule changes.
When relayed Sainz’s comments on Tuesday, Al-Attiyah told Motorsport.com: “This is too much talking from many, many drivers. Seb took one minute 30 seconds – even the regulation doesn’t help, you know.
“The Peugeot is fast, you know, and I’m sure is faster than the Toyota. But okay, we try to do our best day by day.”
Giniel de Villiers, who is a close fourth behind Sainz in the overall classification, echoed teammate Al-Attiyah’s sentiment.
“I don’t know why he [Sainz] is complaining so much,” de Villiers told Motorsport.com. “All the cars have exactly the same restrictor [at 38mm], they all breathe through the same hole. I think that’s the fairest it can be.
“The technology in the diesel is so good now that it’s no reason why they should have a bigger restrictor than a fuel car. For me, it’s fair that everybody’s got the same restrictor.”
Toyota Overdrive’s Nani Roma, who currently sits fifth overall, noted the performance gaps from the air restrictor tweaks were designed to average out over the 2017 Dakar’s wide range of altitudes.
Roma told Motorsport.com: “If he [Sainz] complains when he finishes four seconds in front of us and 20 behind Al-Attiyah… if we have raced as last year, had [a gap of] two minutes…
“Last year they were so calm – who doesn’t like to win with no opposition? But if you look now, all of us are there, I think it’s not bad.
“At the end this rule is for the average of 2000 meters of altitude. It’s important to see where we are in the rest stage.”
De Villiers added: “The Peugeot is still 400kg lighter than us, so at altitude we’ll see, it’ll be difficult to keep up with them with the power-to-weight [ratio]. For sure, it’s a lot better for us at the moment because we’re close to sea level – and you can see, it’s a nice fight.
“Loeb went very well today, pushed quite hard and he won the stage – but it wasn’t by six and seven minutes, so that’s good for the sport.”
Stage suited Loeb and Peugeot
The Toyota Gazoo duo did, however, suggest much of Loeb’s advantage on Tuesday was down to other factors besides car performance.
Al-Attiyah pointed to the fact that he opened the stage, whereas Loeb was only sixth on the road: “The road position makes a difference – we started first, we had to see where the road was sometimes. He had a good road position.
“But okay, this was the plan – yesterday to win and today to open [the stage]. We start second tomorrow and this will be a good plan to push a little bit. Everything is going very well.
“Tomorrow starts navigation, this will be good for Matthieu [Baumel, co-driver], I trust him a lot – and we’ll see what Seb will do tomorrow, if he can open the road or not.”
De Villiers, meanwhile, reckoned the Tuesday timed section’s layout was good for the 3008 DKR: “It was a stage that suited the Peugeot, for sure.
“It was straight, very fast – and the first part was very, very bumpy. It suits a two-wheel drive car. So that’s why he [Loeb] won.”