Baja Italy: Solid second-place for Nasser and Mathieu
• 2nd place overall at Baja Italy for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel
• Nasser and Mathieu cement position at head of Cup standings
Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver, Mathieu Baumel, brought their Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+ home in a solid second position, despite suffering a problem with the rear traction on their car, which limited them to front-wheel-drive only over the closing stage of Baja Italy. They were classified in second position, just 9min 27sec behind the privately entered Toyota Hilux T1+ of Yazeed Al-Rajhi and co-driver Timo Gottschalk, who won the event for a third consecutive time. This victory brings Yazeed’s total tally of Baja Italy victories to four, all of them behind the wheel of a Toyota Hilux.
Baja Italy started on Friday, 7 July, with a qualifying stage of 10km, near the Italian town of Zoppolo. The TGR crew set the third-fastest time on the day, setting them up perfectly to attack over the stages that followed on Saturday. With that said, they did make a minor mistake early on, and may well have won the qualifying stage were it not for the small stumble.
Next came two runs through the special stages started near the town of Pasch, and finished at Digano. The stage was 131km in length, with a neutral zone splitting the route into two separate sections. This was Nasser and Mathieu’s moment to seize control of the event, and the Dakar 2023 winners did so without hesitation. After the first pass through the stage, their lead was nearly 13sec. They improved this significantly during the second pass through the stage, stretching their lead over Yazeed and Timo to 1min 37sec by the time the sun set over Dignano.
The event concluded with a stage of 120km from Dignano to Cordenons on Sunday morning, but it was during this section that Nasser and Mathieu suffered a rear traction problem in their car. With only two-wheel drive, the pair saw their lead dwindle and finally slip away, handing the victory to Yazeed and Timo.
While TGR’s primary focus remains on the FIA’s World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) as part of its preparation for the 2024 Dakar Rally, the team is also the current leaders of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. As such, participation in the next round, Baja Aragon (21-23 July, 2023), is a distinct possibility.
Alain Dujardyn, TGR W2RC Team Principal: “We would like to thank the organising team of Baja Italy for another fantastic event – the 30th edition of this stunning race, featuring great riverbed racing. At the same time, I would like to thank Nasser and Mathieu for doing a great job, despite the challenges they faced during most of the final stage. Finally, our congratulations go to Yazeed and Timo, on winning a hard-fought race. We may be disappointed not to have won ourselves, but we remain proud of our mighty Hilux T1+ which again attained the top step of the podium here in Italy.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “We had a good weekend in Italy, and were looking strong starting the final stage. Unfortunately, we had a problem with the rear traction, and had to finish the race with front-wheel-drive only. This is not a good way to fight for the victory, but we still gained some valuable points towards the Cup.”
Mathieu Baumel: “We started the final stage with a good chance to bring the cup back home, but unfortunately, after 10-15km we had an issue with the rear traction and we only had front-wheel drive, so it was difficult to manage. Nasser did very well but you cannot fight when you have only two-wheel drive, especially in the river beds and water crossings. We finished second in the race and this is good points for the World Cup, and we were able to increase our leads.”
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Two of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing W2RC's key sponsors, Red Bull and Eurol, have committed to share in the team's W2RC journey for 2023, supporting Nasser and Mathieu's efforts through TGR. Eurol is the Dutch developer and producer of lubricants, additives, cleaners, technical fluids and specialty products, available in over 90 countries worldwide. Innovation, quality and sustainability are core values of the Eurol brand. Eurol provides TOYOTA GAZOO Racing with the Eurol Specialty Racing line with SYNGIS Technology, for extreme high-performance levels under all circumstances.
Red Bull has established itself as the premiere supporter of extreme sports and athletes, and as such fits perfectly with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's Dakar and W2RC efforts. The Austrian energy drink manufacturer has partnered with Nasser, Mathieu and TGR over numerous years, and the involvement bore fruit when Nasser and Mathieu won a second Dakar title for TGR in January 2022.
The team is also supported by Jonsson Workwear and USN.