DAKAR winners prepared for round 2 of 2023 W2RC in Abu Dhabi
• Dakar winners, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel ready for action in Abu Dhabi
• Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings to campaign in a second GR DKR Hilux T1+
Dakar 2023 winners, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel, are ready for action at the upcoming Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Round 2 of the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). They will be joined by teammates Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings, who finished in 5th place in this year’s Dakar. The latter pairing will be doing the Desert Challenge as a once-off event, and will not officially be entering the W2RC for 2023.
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+.
Nasser has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge three times – twice in a Toyota Hilux, with Mathieu Baumel beside him. Last year, the duo suffered a heavy landing in the first stage of the 2022 event, which precluded them from attaining the 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.
Henk and Brett will be taking part in their first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The pair had a strong opening week in this year’s Dakar Rally, holding onto 2nd place for the bulk of the first half of the event. But a rollover relegated them down the order, with the pair eventually bringing their GR DKR Hilux T1+ home in 5th place overall.
For Henk, racing in Abu Dhabi is an opportunity to broaden his experience in the dunes. Even though the crew tests 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.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “We had the best possible start to the 2023 W2RC season, but even so we are behind in the driver standings. Our plan will be to push for victory in Abu Dhabi, in order to take the outright lead in the W2RC standings. Even so, you never know what the desert brings, and there are a lot of fast cars in the race this year. I’ll do my best, and we’ll see where that brings us by the end of the race.”
Henk Lategan: “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. 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 myself and Brett to make the most of the opportunity.”
W2RC: Driver Standings after Dakar 2023
1. S. Loeb, Bahrain Raid Extreme - 87
2. N. Al-Attiyah, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing - 85
3. G. Chicherit, Prodrive - 49
4. M. Ekstrom, Team Audi Sport - 37
5. M. Prokop, Orlen Benzina Team - 31
W2RC: Manufacturer Standings after Dakar 2023
1. Bahrain Raid Xtreme - 66
2. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing - 65
3. X-Raid MINI JCW Team - 50
4. BAIC ORV - 40
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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.