Al-Attiyah’s Dakar Rally lead cut after five-minute penalty

Toyota driver found to have not fitted seatbelts properly after early puncture stop on Monday's eighth stage

Nasser Al-Attiyah

Dakar Rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah has received a five-minute time penalty for a seat belt infringement during Monday’s eighth stage.

The penalty does not affect the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver’s position at the top of the overall classification, although his advantage over Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sébastien Loeb has been reduced to under 35 minutes with three stages left to run.

The stewards found that both Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel had not worn their seatbelts and frontal head restraints correctly after stopping to change a puncture early on stage eight.

The incident was brought to their attention through a video on social media which showed both crew members getting back into their Hilux T1+, with the unusually short time taken to refasten the belts sufficient reason for further investigation.

Upon reviewing the crew’s onboard footage, the stewards came up with their decision to hand out the penalty.

Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel

The stewards’ decision read: “The OBSC video received by stewards shows without doubt that immediately after boarding the vehicle, the driver engaged the gear and started the vehicle.

“Furthermore, the video shows that the crew was busy for 1m45s properly fastening the seat belts. For a short time, the co-driver even held the steering wheel to give the driver the opportunity to fasten his seat belt.”

The Cross-Country Rally Sporting Regulations state in article 48.1 that: “Whenever a vehicle is in motion on any type of selective section and until the stop control, the crew must wear homologated crash helmets, all required safety clothing and equipment in compliance with Appendix L Chapter III – drivers’ equipment as intended by the equipment manufacturer and have their safety belts correctly fastened.”

The penalty is the latest in a long line of punishments handed out on this year’s Dakar, with Al-Attiyah’s Toyota team-mate Giniel de Villiers copping a five-minute penalty following an incident with a biker on the opening day.

De Villiers, who won stage nine in a Toyota one-two-three, then got a five-hour penalty for a separate incident which was subsequently overturned after new evidence surfaced.

Al-Attiyah himself is also competing under a suspended disqualification for a data logger issue on the second day.

While Al-Attiyah recieved a penalty, his main rival for the Dakar win, Loeb, escaped his own penalty on Monday after losing a spare wheel after also stopping to replace a punctured tire.

Ekström and Peterhansel penalized but keep SS8 results

Audi’s Mattias Ekström and Stéphane Peterhansel also received time penalties following stage eight , after their electrical deployed power exceeded the maximum threshold allowed by the regulations.

The pair finished one-two on the Al Dawadimi-Wadi Ad-Dawasir stage, but were penalized two minutes each for the regulation breach.

Their punishment does not affect the stage result, however, as their nearest rival Sébastien Loeb finished the stage 3m08s behind stage-winner Ekström, and over two minutes adrift of Peterhansel.

Lisa Crampton, the team representative for Audi Sport told the stewards that: “Selective Sections 1-7 show that the deploy power never exceeded the limit. We don’t know what happened in SS8, it is very astonishing that this ‘overboost’ occurred on two cars at almost the same point in the SS for just one single time.”

Audi confirmed to the stewards that it would reduced the electrical deployed power by 1kW to ensure no repeat of the overboost will happen.