Motorsport: Toyota HiLux leads Dakar rally at half-way point
Is there anything the Toyota HiLux can’t do?
Fresh from dominating the sales charts at home, the dual-cab ute is leading the Dakar rally at the halfway point.
Nasser Al-Attiyah is looking good at the front of the field for Toyota, which is hoping to claim an important win in the gruelling event.
Like all of the cars in Dakar, Al-Attiyah’s HiLux is an extraordinary machine.
Forget about the humble 2.8-litre diesel engine under the bonnet of the production HiLux - the rally version features a naturally aspirated V8 engine with enough power to push the big beast through deep sand at speed.
You won’t find the engine under the bonnet - it sits behind the driver and navigator in a mid-mounted layout similar to a McLaren or Ferrari.
Long-travel suspension and a rugged all-wheel-drive system help the cause - though Toyota’s recipe has not proved as successful as lighter, rear-drive turbo-diesel machines in recent years.
Having had a difficult start to the rally, French WRC legend Sebastian Loeb powered through on stage six to vault from fifth to second in the standings, with a determined drive to take a stage victory well ahead of key rivals.
Even so, Al-Attiyah can afford to be cautious at the head of the field, enjoying a lead of nearly 38 minutes to Loeb, who sits just ahead of the Mini buggies of Nani Roma and Stephane Peterhansel within 45 minutes of the lead.
Injured Price in the mix
Australia’s Toby Price remains in contention for a strong result in the Dakar’s motorcycle class. Riding for KTM, Price currently lies in third place, a little more than five minutes behind leader Pablo Quintanilla and his Husqvarna. The battle for bikes is proving especially close this year - the top five racers are separated by less than 10 minutes.
Which makes life even harder for Price, who broke his wrist in a training accident last month.
Riding with bandages to support a broken scaphoid on his right wrist, Price said the race has been “really tough” and “a bit more like survival mode at the moment”.
“My wrist is hurting more and more as the race goes on and it’s making things uncomfortable out there,” he said.
“Nevertheless, third overall with four stages left to race is encouraging.
“The goal is the same - make it safely to the finish - so I’ll keep pushing on tomorrow.”
Mahindra wins in Marrakech
Jerome d’Ambrosio took a thrilling win in the second round of the 2018-19 Formula E championship in Morocco.
A late-race safety car compressed the field, giving pursuers Robin Frijns and Sam Bird an opportunity to challenge for the lead, though the Belgian racer was able to hold them off.
"The race was really hard-fought and incredibly intense,” d’Ambrosio said.
“A couple of things played-out to our advantage.”
The ex-F1 man was delighted to take his first victory of the season, one which was helped by an inter-team clash at BMW. Round one winner Antonio Felix da Costa was leading for BMW when teammate Alexander Sims attempted a late-race pass which saw Sims run wide and da Costa lock his wheels before nudging into a barrier, ruling them out of contention.
Sims said it was “a great shame” BMW could not capitalise on its pace.
“The race should not have finished like that,” he said.
“All of us - me, António and the team - will learn our lessons from what happened.
“We are all well aware that such incidents are unacceptable. It cost us a one-two result today.”
Mad Max goes green
Red Bull Racing Formula One driver Max Verstappen watched the e-prix action first hand as part of his punishment for shoving fellow racer Estaban Ocon at the Brazilian grand prix last year.
Verstappen’s physical reaction to an on-track clash saw organisers reprimand him with two days of public service. The Dutch driver served time as an observer of stewards in Morocco, watching on as Mahindra snatched an unlikely victory.
Third-placed Sam Bird told Autosport he was not happy with Verstappen’s presence at the race.
“I mean, to call coming to a Formula E race community service I think does Formula E a bit of a disjustice,” Bird said.
"This is an amazing category, and people pay to come and watch us, it shouldnt be a punishment to come here.
"I hope he enjoyed it, and I hope he will give good feedback to some of his colleagues."