Four out of four for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's Nasser & Mathieu in Abu Dhabi
There seems to be nothing stopping TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel as they maintained their winning formula at the 30th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, courtesy of another outstanding performance in the fourth stage of the penultimate leg of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. Having secured four out of four stage victories in the United Arab Emirates, the pair look destined to capture their first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title since 2016 with only Thursday’s fifth and final stage remaining.
The duo were determined to continue their clean sweep of stage wins when they began the challenging 252 km journey in their V8-powered Toyota Hilux. They once again opened the road, holding an 11min 18sec lead over second-placed Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk.
While their advantage was good, it was by no means comfortable, and the Qatari driver and his French co-driver still had to remain competitive on terrain that closely resembled what they encountered on days one and two – namely plenty of dunes interspersed with fast and extremely sandy tracks. Still, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team powered to yet another stage victory, doing so in a time of 3hr 16min 16sec.
Fellow Toyota Hilux outfit Lucio Alvarez and Armand Monleon once again ended the stage with the second-fastest time, just over two minutes off the pace, while they also climbed to second in the overall classification. First position, of course, is held by Nasser and Mathieu, who have extended their lead to an exceptional 23min 48sec with one stage remaining.
Thursday sees competitors head back to the main hub of Abu Dhabi for the fifth and final stage. 218km is all that stands between the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team and victory, but given the nature of the sport, a win is by no means a foregone conclusion for Nasser and Mathieu. However, the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title looks to be well within their reach.
STAGE 4 RESULTS:
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel Toyota Hilux (TGR) 3hr 16min 16sec
2. Lucio Alvarez/Armand Monleon Toyota Hilux (Overdrive) +2min 15sec
3. Denis Krotov/Konstantin Zhiltsov MINI +7min 04sec
4. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr Toyota Hilux (Overdrive) +7min 39sec
5. Sebastien Halpern/Bernardo Graue MINI +16min 32sec
STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 4:
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel Toyota Hilux (TGR) 15hr 09min 08sec
2. Lucio Alvarez/Armand Monleon Toyota Hilux (Overdrive) +23min 48sec
3. Denis Krotov/Konstantin Zhiltsov MINI +1hr 11min 36sec
4. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr Toyota Hilux (Overdrive) +1hr 17min 35sec
5. Sebastien Halpern/Bernardo Graue MINI +1hr 35min 50sec
Glyn Hall, Team Principal:
“Nasser and Mathieu are exceptionally well placed, but with 300kms still to go, they can’t rest on their laurels. However, given their healthy lead and Nasser’s ability to win races, it does mean that they can be more conservative in the fifth and final stage with the title in sight.”
“There hasn’t been much rain this year, so the dunes have been very soft. The stage featured a combination of terrain from the past few days. We are extremely happy, and the Hilux is operating beautifully. We’ve got just one stage to go, and we are determined to win.”
“Given the lead we had it made no sense to take risks today, and it paid off. We’ll do the same tomorrow, as we still have a long way to go to the finish. However, we’re going to ensure that we get there in one piece and in first place.”