Disappointing opening stage for TGR at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
- Nasser and Mathieu retire from Stage 1 after ‘unlucky’ landing
- Crew will return for Stage 2
The opening stage of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge brought disappointment for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, as defending champions Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel were forced to retire following what the crew described as an ‘unlucky landing’, shortly after the start of the stage. This resulted in a broken wishbone on the right-front of their Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+, but the crew will return to take on the competitors in Stage 2, under a significant time penalty.
The pair, who won the opening round of the FIA’s new World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC), the Dakar Rally, earlier this year, were the odds-on favourites to bag another victory at the 31st edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, but those hopes evaporated just 8km into the opening stage.
With the rules for the W2RC allowing for crews to re-enter a race under time penalty, the TGR pairing will return on Stage 2, hoping to score maximum points in their quest to secure the W2RC title in its inaugural year. Each stage counts towards the overall championship standings, in addition to individual race victories, and as such it is imperative for the team to continue racing, despite not completing the opening stage.
The GR DKR Hilux T1+, which took Nasser and Mathieu to victory at the Dakar Rally earlier this year, has proven highly reliable from the start. However, today’s mishap was termed as ‘unlucky’ by the crew, rather than pointing to an inherent design flaw. The repairs were significant in terms of the stage results, but with the new rules in place, the crew is sure to fight for victory on Stage 2 of the event.
With Nasser and Mathieu removed from today’s stage battle, it was difficult to gauge the performance of the GR DKR Hilux T1+ when compared to its competitors from BRX and Audi. The former suffered a broken side-shaft mid-stage, which handed the win to the German team. At the same time, Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Al Rajhi and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz posted the second-fastest time on the opening stage, just 9min 30sec behind the leaders.
The bivouac is now set at Qasr Al Sarab for the next four days, with each stage returning to the same bivouac. Stage 2 promises more sandy tracks and dunes, with tricky navigation.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal:
“Today’s hard landing was nothing out of the ordinary – our cars have done literally hundreds of them, without any problems. As a matter of fact, the crash warning hadn’t even triggered in the car. But sometimes lady luck conspires against you, and clearly Nasser and Mathieu hit just too hard and just the wrong angle. The part lasted for another 2km before failing, showing just how strong our Hilux is.”
“Today really wasn’t a good day for us. We didn’t suffer an accident as such, but we landed very hard. With that said, we’ve had many of these landings in the past without any problems, but this time the lower wishbone initially bent before finally breaking. This is really tough for me to accept, but we’ll return tomorrow and aim to enjoy the rest of the race.”
“It certainly wasn’t the best start to the rally, and it wasn’t what we’d expected so soon after the start. Just three or four kilometres after the start, we had to cross some small dunes. Unfortunately, we fell into a small hole, but with a big dip towards the exit. It damaged the lower control arm, and in the end, we couldn’t finish the stage. This is disappointing, but we’ll be back to try to gain some points for the championship.”
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