South African driver Giniel de Villiers on Monday won the second stage of the Dakar Rally, while former Formula One (F1) world champion Fernando Alonso was “glad to be able to continue” after dropping more than two hours when losing a wheel.
Alonso suffered his first major problem in his maiden Dakar appearance as he ground to a halt when his near front wheel “completely ripped off.”
“He said sorry to us. I think he knew it was his fault,” Toyota Overdrive boss Jean-Marc Fortin said. “He had the necessary [equipment] to repair it, but he first had to find the wheel, because it had careered off into the distance. When they found it, it wasn’t round, but oval.”
In the run-up to Sunday’s start, the 38-year-old Spaniard had downplayed his prospects of creating history by becoming the first F1 world champion to win, but his chances of reaching the podium look remote after just two days of the 7,500km desert odyssey in Saudi Arabia.
When he made it to the finish, Alonso cut a relaxed figure, despite the wheel drama, which he attributed to being blinded by dust thrown up by vehicles ahead of him.
“When you come on the Dakar, you come for all the hazards it entails — today was one of them. I’m glad to be here and to be able to continue the rally,” the 2005 and 2006 F1 champion said.
His Toyota teammate, De Villiers, who lost 23 minutes when he finished 14th in Sunday’s opening stage, came back strong over the 401km route, of which 367km were a special between Al Wajh and Neom.
Many drivers had navigational problems and De Villiers took advantage of a mistake by long-time stage leader Yazeed al-Rajhi to guide his Toyota home in 3 hours, 37 minutes, 20 seconds.
The 47-year-old crossed the line 3:57 ahead of Orlando Terranova, who heads the overall standings in his Mini. The Argentinian, who was sixth in the opening stage, is almost five minutes ahead of fellow Mini driver Carlos Sainz.
Defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah came in fifth on stage two and is six minutes off the lead, while 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel trails by 13 minutes after a problem with his car’s steering column.
Yesterday, the rally headed out on a 489km trip that started and ended in Neom.
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