Toyota driver Nasser Al-Attiyah has expressed his frustration after being hobbled by multiple punctures on the first two days of the Dakar Rally.
Defending champion Al-Attiyah entered the 2020 edition of the event as the favourite for the win, but sits third in the general classification after Monday’s Al Wajh - Neom test, 6m07s down on leader Orlando Terranova (Mini).
The Qatari driver suffered three punctures on the opening day of the rally, before losing further time on Monday with an additional three punctures.
Al-Attiyah’s Toyota teammate Giniel de Villiers was hit by four punctures on Sunday, while Mini driver Carlos Sainz Sr also lost time with a flat tyre on Monday.
Following a difficult start to the Saudi Arabia-based event, the 49-year-old has urged Dakar tyre supplier BF Goodrich to improve its tyre compounds, while also pinpointing his troubles to a lack of tyre competition in the category.
"Today in one place we get lost, but after we have three times flat tyre," said Al-Attiyah. "But okay, everybody have a mistake and still we are third overall, this is a good point.
“The car is working very well, no problems, except the tyres. Yesterday we had three punctures and today we had three punctures."
Speaking after Sunday’s opening stage, he said: “I think BF Goodrich need to develop the tyre, you know, because this tyre is now four years old.
“The problem is there no competition for the tyre. If there is another brand, I’m sure [it would be better]. Look at the buggy, the buggies never have a puncture.
“If today we start with the three and Giniel [de Villiers] start with three and most of four-wheel drive have a lot of punctures. I need to speak with the Goodrich people and to explain.”
After nursing a puncture to the finish line on Sunday, de Villiers set the quickest time on Stage 2, beating Terranova by nearly four minutes after 367km of timed running.
However, having lost over 20 minutes on the opening stage, he sits only sixth in the standings, 12m in arrears of Terranova.
"I know this happens like this in the Dakar, you can have a very bad day and the next day you can have a very good day,” de Villiers said. “It’s just the way you limit your bad days and limit the time loss but sure [it was a] really nice day.
“We just had a stop with Bernhard [ten Brinke] to give him some tyres because he ran out of tyres, cost us a minute or two. Otherwise really good day.
“Alex [Haro] did a really good job on navigation because it’s so, so tricky out there, and bikes going all over the place so you can get confused quite quickly. Car ran really good and let’s see what tomorrow brings."