Tough opening stage for Toyota Gazoo Racing at Dakar 2023
  • 6th place on opening stage for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel
  • All three GR DKR Hilux T1+ cars ran faultlessly

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR) started the defence of its Dakar crown on Sunday, 1 January 2023, with a challenging stage set to the south of the rally’s so-called Sea Camp, the biggest bivouac in the 45-year history of the race. Stage 1 saw defending champions Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel hold onto a two-minute deficit for the bulk of the stage, before finally setting the 6th-fastest time in their updated GR DKR Hilux T1+, despite facing some navigational challenges towards the end of the stage. This left them 7min 17sec adrift of the lead.

The champions started their rally by posting the 4th fastest time on the short, sharp Prologue, which was run on the last day of 2022, to determine the starting order for the opening stage. After the Top 10 finishers in the Prologue nominated their starting positions, Nasser and Mathieu took to the stage as the 7th car on the road.

The TGR crew drove at a steady pace, finding their feet over the opening kilometres of the stage. Unfortunately, a tricky navigational section towards the end of the stage cost them some time. They soldiered on, reaping the 6th place for their efforts.

Things started with a literal bang for Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings. The winners of two stages during Dakar 2022 finished the Prologue in 10th place, forcing them to open the road for the first stage. They had barely started the stage when contact with a low-hanging branch shattered the windscreen of their car, severely limiting their visibility.

They drove with the broken windscreen until they suffered a puncture some 29km into the stage. The stop gave them the opportunity to remove the windscreen and don goggles, which they had to wear for the remainder of the 367 km-long stage, which started near Sea Camp and finished 193km to the south of the bivouac.

Despite the challenge of opening the road, suffering a puncture, and having to drive with no windscreen, the TGR crew managed to record the 11th-fastest time, 11min 45sec behind the leaders. They will be aiming for a clean run at Stage 2, with the hope of improving on their current position.

Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy fell foul not only to a mid-stage puncture but also found the going tough in terms of navigation. Their performance on the opening stage netted them 18th position for the day, leaving them with a deficit of 18min 31sec to the stage winners. The 2009 winner of the rally and his co-driver will be pushing hard during Stage 2, to remain in touch with the leading group.

Stage 2 will also see the Dakar Rally move from its base at Sea Camp for the first time in five days, as the event moves to the canyons of Alula, to the northeast of its starting point. The day will start with a liaison of 159km, with a timed section of 430km up next, before the stage ends just 1km from the next bivouac. Stage 2 promises more sandy tracks, with a small number of dunes, mixed with rocky traverses.

Dakar 2023 is scheduled to finish on 15 January, 2023, in the city of Dammam. In between lie 13 more stages, spanning across the Saudi landscape and into the so-called Empty Quarter where a sea of dunes await the competitors.

QUOTES:

Glyn Hall, TGR Dakar Team Principal: “All-told, we had a reasonable day today. All three cars performed well and were it not for some punctures and navigational issues, which are part and parcel of rally-raid racing, we would have been in exactly the positions we expected. As it stands, Henk and Brett managed a really complex scenario very well today and should have an easier run tomorrow. As for Nasser, he is in a perfect position for Stage 2.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “It was not an easy start to this year’s Dakar. We lost our way a little around 40km from the finish, so we lost some time, but at least the first stage is behind us. Let’s see what we can do on Stage 2.”

Giniel de Villiers: “This was not a great stage for us, unfortunately. We had a puncture quite early on, and since we carry only two spares, I had to take it a little easier over the many rocky sections. We also had to turn around quite a few times, to hunt for waypoints. But that’s how it is, and we’ll have to try again tomorrow.”

Henk Lategan: “It was an eventful day for us, opening the stage, hitting a branch, and dealing with a puncture. But I think we handled it well, and even though we lost quite a lot of time today, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage.”

DAKAR 2023: Stage 1 Results:

POS.

CREW

TEAM

TIME

VARIATION

PENALITY

1

207

(ESP) CARLOS SAINZ

(ESP) LUCAS CRUZ

TEAM AUDI SPORT

03H 28' 55''

   

2

201

(FRA) SEBASTIEN LOEB

(BEL) FABIAN LURQUIN

BAHRAIN RAID XTREME

03H 29' 05''

+ 00H 00' 10''

 

3

202

(SAU) YAZEED AL RAJHI

(DEU) DIRK VON ZITZEWITZ

OVERDRIVE RACING

03H 30' 56''

+ 00H 02' 01''

 

4

206

(FRA) GUERLAIN CHICHERIT

(FRA) ALEX WINOCQ

GCK MOTORSPORT

03H 30' 58''

+ 00H 02' 03''

00H 01' 00''

5

208

(ARG) ORLANDO TERRANOVA

(ESP) ALEX HARO BRAVO

BAHRAIN RAID XTREME

03H 36' 00''

+ 00H 07' 05''

 

6

200

(QAT) NASSER AL-ATTIYAH

(FRA) MATHIEU BAUMEL

TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

GR DKR Hilux T1+

03H 36' 12''

+ 00H 07' 17''

00H 00' 10''

7

216

(ZAF) BRIAN BARAGWANATH

(ZAF) LEONARD CREMER

CENTURY RACING FACTORY TEAM

03H 36' 46''

+ 00H 07' 51''

00H 01' 00''

8

204

(FRA) STÉPHANE PETERHANSEL

(FRA) EDOUARD BOULANGER

TEAM AUDI SPORT

03H 37' 46''

+ 00H 08' 51''

 

9

203

(POL) JAKUB PRZYGONSKI

(ESP) ARMAND MONLEON

X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM

03H 37' 49''

+ 00H 08' 54''

 

10

213

(LTU) VAIDOTAS ZALA

(PRT) PAULO FIUZA

TELTONIKA RACING.

03H 39' 52''

+ 00H 10' 57''

 

11

217

(ZAF) HENK LATEGAN

(ZAF) BRETT CUMMINGS

TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

GR DKR Hilux T1+

03H 40' 40''

+ 00H 11' 45''

 

18

205

(ZAF) GINIEL DE VILLIERS

(ZAF) DENNIS MURPHY

TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

GR DKR Hilux T1+

03H 47' 26''

+ 00H 18' 31''

00H 02' 00''

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with its partners Red Bull, Kinto, Eurol and the Innovation Group. The team is also supported by Hallspeed, SKF, Spanjaard, Edgecam, Supreme Springs, Shatterprufe, Smith’s Manufacturing, Oakley, Lumotech, OMP, MSA, SACCS and the FIA. Thanks also to Ingco, Jonsson Workwear and USN for their support.