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First day in the challenging Empty Quarter stage
Car #501 delayed after unfortunate bogging but both cars arrived safely

Issue #6:January 12, 2024

On January 10, the 2024 Dakar Rally took competitors to the Rub' al Khali Desert in southern Saudi Arabia where a 118 km competition section was held around Shubaytah in the eastern end of the desert. TLC are in the Stock (Production Car) category of this rally with their Land Cruiser 300 cars; Akira Miura and Mayeul Barbet in Car #500 finished the stage in 125th place overall in the Car category and 1st in the Stock (Production Car) category. Ronald Basso and Jean-Michel Polato in Car #501 finished 154th overall and continued 2nd in the category. This brings the cumulative rankings for Car #500 to 93rd overall and 1st in the Stock (Production Car) category; Car #501 now ranks 121st overall and 2nd in the category. The team has a firm hold on their one-two formation as they aim for an 11th consecutive victory in the rally.

The Empty Quarter is the name of a place with endless soft sand dunes; it is also the name of a place known for its difficulty in the Dakar Rally since moving to Saudi Arabia. Today, after a long 508 km liaison (transfer section) from Al-Hofuf to Shubaytah, the teams went all out on a short SS that circled the bivouac in a counterclockwise direction. In the beginning of the stage, higher speeds could be reached on sand tracks, but after the 20 km mark the soft sand dunes made an appearance. The sand in the dunes at the end of the stage was relatively tight at first, but by the time TLC reached them they had already been ruined by the cars ahead. The cause of the power steering problems that persisted until yesterday in Car #500 remains to be found, but further problems have been avoided thanks to the replacement of parts. The improved TOYO TIRES are running well, and the cars were able to make it to the finish without any punctures or getting stuck.

Car #501 was also on a steady run, but just 15 km before the finish they found themselves stuck in a bowl-shaped dip where several other competitors were also buried. With so many vehicles, it took some time to get out, but they arrived safely at the bivouac in the end, albeit with a two-hour delay.

From January 11, “THE 48H CHRONO STAGE” will finally be held over two days and is expected to be the most difficult section of the rally. It is an evolution of the Marathon Stage, which runs over two days without maintenance by mechanics or parts supply. On the first day, instead of a single bivouac, a total of seven Braking Zones (simple bivouacs) will be set up on the course. When time is up for a zone, participants are stopped, and they must spend the night in a simple bivouac. On the morning of the second day, the teams will restart from the same place and aim for the finish line. TLC carried out careful inspections and maintenance at the bivouac in Shubaytah to send the cars out in their best condition before they tackled the challenging stage up ahead.

The rally report for the 6th stage, “THE 48H CHRONO STAGE”, will be updated at the end on January 12. Please note that there will be no update for the first half of the stage.

Miura (driver): There were no problems with the power steering today and I was able to drive comfortably. Overall, it wasn't so hard, but the soft sand made some places difficult. Mayeul navigated perfectly and we were able to smoothly reach the finish, so I’m feeling confident about “THE 48H CHRONO STAGE”.

Basso (driver): At the beginning of the SS, the right front wheel fell off the rim (this sometimes happens when driving with low tire pressure). After that, we were further delayed when we got stuck, but the car is fine. It's a pity that tomorrow's start time will be delayed, but I'll be doing my best.