Lategan/Cummings to compete in ‘23 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
  • Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings to take part in their first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
  • Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel to continue W2RC campaign

TOYOTA GAZOO RACING South Africa’s Henk Lategan and co-driver, Brett Cummings, will be taking part in next week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The pair, who finished fifth at this year’s Dakar Rally, held in Saudi Arabia during January, will be aiming to gain international experience, with an emphasis on the dune-rich terrain they expect to encounter during the race.

They will partner Dakar 2023 winners, Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver, Mathieu Baumel, who will be taking on the Desert Challenge as Round 2 of the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship. While Al-Attiyah/Baumel are competing in the full World Rally-Raid Championship for 2023, Lategan and Cummings will be taking part as a once-off only.

Both crews will be competing in the GR DKR Hilux T1+, which won its second consecutive Dakar Rally earlier this year. The car has proven extremely tough and reliable, with four of the Top 5 positions at this year’s Dakar going to crews campaigning versions of this machine. Beside the three TGR crews, who finished in 1st, 4th (Giniel de Villiers / Dennis Murphy) and 5th, Brazil’s Lucas Moraes and his German co-driver, Timo Gottschalk, attained 3rd place in a privately entered version of the Toyota Hilux T1+.

“Taking part in a round of the W2RC in addition to the Dakar Rally has long been one of my ambitions, and the terrain in Abu Dhabi closely resembles that of the Dakar itself,” said Lategan. “As such, the experience of racing in Abu Dhabi is invaluable, and I’m looking forward to measuring my speed against some of the fastest crews in the world, in an arena outside the Dakar. We know the GR DKR Hilux T1+ is up to the task – now it is down to me and Brett to make the most of the opportunity.”

While Lategan will be making his Abu Dhabi debut, Al-Attiyah has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge three times – twice in a Toyota Hilux, with Mathieu Baumel beside him. The Qatari suffered a heavy landing in stage one of the 2022 event, however, which precluded him from attaining a fourth victory. Despite the early setback, Nasser and Mathieu fought back by winning all the remaining stages in the race, bagging maximum points for stage wins, and keeping their W2RC aspirations alive. This proved pivotal at the end of the season, as their nearest competitors came within a few points of snatching the title – but the points scored during the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge stood the TGR crew in good stead, as they finished the inaugural year of the championship as winners. Toyota was also crowned as the winning manufacturer for the inaugural season.

For Lategan, racing in Abu Dhabi is an opportunity to broaden his experience in the dunes, and even though the crews test in some of the biggest dunes in the world, near Walvis Bay in Namibia, the terrain is somewhat different in the Al Dhannah and Liwa Deserts, where the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge takes place. However, it closely resembles the dunes found in Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, which has proven a critical part of the Dakar Rally over the past few editions.

This year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is set to kick off with a prologue, to determine the starting orders for Stage 1, on Sunday 26 February. This will be followed by five stages, totalling 1,311km. The total distance for the event, including liaisons, will be 2,168km, with the timed stages varying in length between 208km and 310km. The event is scheduled to finish at the Energy Business Centre in Abu Dhabi City on Friday 3 March