HARADH, Saudi Arabia – The tire inflation system has proved to be crucial among Mini buggies and Toyota 4x4s in the 2020 Dakar Rally cars category.
Both cars have similar features and are able to operate at a top speed of 200 kilometers per hour on the most complicated surface, but their wheels are what set them apart from each other.
If Nasser al-Attiyah’s Toyota 4x4 managed to win the rally last year in the desert of Peru due to the constant punctures in the Mini buggies, this year in Saudi Arabia, the tables have turned: the German brand’s two driving wheels of Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel are now stronger.
Among the current advantages of the Mini buggies is the ability to control the air pressure in each tire to improve performance on different surfaces.
In last year’s race, Mini had three buggies that could barely travel 100 kilometers without a flat tire due to the constant failures and breakdowns in their inflation and deflation system, but this year, with only two cars, that system is working to perfection and wheel changes have been limited.
Sainz, who currently leads the general rankings, said that he won the last stage in the previous race, a sign that the car was running well, except for that specific issue.
However, Toyota is now suffering similar issues with continuous punctures, especially in the first week where the race passed through areas with hard surfaces.
The fourth stage was particularly complicated for al-Attiyah and his teammate Fernando Alonso as they used up to three spare wheels and had to do 120 and 150 kilometers respectively with great caution because they had no spare tires.
The Qatari driver has not been able to secure any stage victory this year so far, while Mini has achieved eight wins, four by Sainz and four by Peterhansel.
Despite the numerous punctures, the differences between al-Attiyah and his two rivals have been minimal after having traveled over 4,000 kilometers since 5 January, when the race began in Jeddah.
Only in the 10th stage was Sainz able to finish 17 minutes and 46 seconds faster than al-Attiyah.
The 2020 Dakar Rally is being held in Saudi Arabia, with 12 stages from Jeddah to Qiddiya playing out between 5-17 January.
This is the first edition of the race to take place in Asia and the second in a row to be held entirely in one country after Peru.