• 8th place on Stage 1 for De Villiers/Haro
  • 10th place for Al-Attiyah/Baumel
  • Solid performance by Variawa/Murphy
  • 14th on first Dakar stage for Henk Lategan
BISHA, SAUDI ARABIA – The opening stage of Dakar 2021 turned out to be a stern test, especially for the crews at the head of the field. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel was the first car into Stage 1, having won the prologue near Jeddah on January 2nd. The pair found their progress curtailed by the dust from the motorcycles ahead of them, and struggled to find the correct route in places. They finished 10th on the 277 km-long stage, trailing Carlos Sainz (MINI) by 12min 34sec.

The best-performing Toyota crew on Stage 1 was that of Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, who started down the order after a throttle response problem hampered them during the prologue. The pair made the best of their road position (19th), and powered their Toyota Hilux to 8th on the stage, 9min 59sec behind the stage winners. They suffered three punctures en route, and lost more time due to a navigational error. Despite these challenges, the crew posted a competitive time, and will be in a good position to attack on Stage 2, from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy were somewhat disappointed after the prologue, where they posted the 26th-fastest time, but the pair fought back with a solid performance on the opening stage. They finished in 12th place, just 58sec behind Al-Attiyah and Baumel, and will be in a good position for Stage 2.

The final car in the TGR team is that of Dakar debutant Henk Lategan and his navigator Brett Cummings. The pair got their Dakar campaign off to “the worst possible start”, as Lategan put it after the stage. They suffered three punctures and lost their way twice – but despite this they came home in 14th place, just 18min 31sec behind the stage winners.

“It was a really tough opening stage today, and we had some very anxious moments during the day,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the cars had exited the stage near Bisha. “While we’d certainly have preferred to be higher up the order, we really can’t complain after all the challenges of the day, and we’ve got four cars all in good positions to attack on tomorrow’s stage.”

Next up is Stage 2, which will see the rally move from the town of Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir. The stage includes a timed section of 457 km over a mix of dunes, open valleys and sandy tracks, with a liaison of 228 km stringing everything together.