Power performance as Toyota dominate at 2023 DAKAR Rally
The 2023 edition of the Dakar Rally saw Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel record a second consecutive Dakar win for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. The pair dominated this year’s rally, which was the 45th running of the iconic event, having taken the lead in Stage 3, and never relinquishing that position. When their GR DKR Hilux T1+ crossed the finish line in the Saudi Arabian city of Dammam on 15 January, their winning margin was 1hr 20min 49sec.
Dakar 2022 started with a prologue near the so-called Sea Camp: The largest bivouac in the rally’s history, set on the Red Sea coast just north of the town of Yanbu. Nasser and Mathieu went 4th-fastest on the prologue and elected to start Stage 1 as the 4th car on the road – and ideal position from which to attack. They opened their account by going 6th-fastest on the opening stage, before taking the outright lead on Stage 3 of the rally. Their advantage at that point was 13min 20sec, but they would build on this with each passing stage.
This year’s Dakar Rally consisted of 14 stages, rather than the 12 that had become tradition over the last four years. The race was also particularly tough in terms of the terrain, with many competitors commenting that, while their cars might be able to take the punishment, their bodies might not. With that said, Nasser and Mathieu never missed a beat, and the same can be said of the latest version of their GR DKR Hilux T1+.
While essentially the same car as the one that won the 2022 Dakar Rally, the latest evolution of the Dakar-winning machine features a refined suspension setup, as well as many new components that helped the car to become even more reliable and durable, in line with Toyota’s ethos of building ever-better cars.
The mighty GR DKR Hilux T1+ is powered by a twin-turbo petrol V6 engine of 3.5l, as found in the latest version of the Toyota Land Cruiser 300. The engine’s power output is governed by the FIA’s rules, and in race trim the engine works well within its production parameters. As such, it has proven extremely reliable, underscoring Toyota’s quality and engineering.
With a highly reliable car, it came as no surprise that Nasser and Mathieu completed the remainder of the race without mishap. They drove at a steady, measured pace, comfortably maintaining their lead over the closing stages of the rally. This year’s event spent nearly a week in the so-called Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia – an area in the south-eastern corner of the country, which is sparsely populated and strewn with massive sand dunes. The area proved the undoing of many competitors, but Nasser and Mathieu manage to protect their lead over the last week of the rally.
The closing stage of the rally stretched between the bivouac at Al-Hofuf and Dammam, the third-most populous city in Saudi Arabia. The special stage was only 136km long, but proved a tough and muddy affair – a fitting end to one of the toughest Dakars on record. The weather during the opening week of the rally was bitterly cold, with incessant rain that made the bivouac a mess, and tested the competitors in the stages. The second week saw less rain, though the Empty Quarter certainly left an indelible mark with many crews.
While the Dakar Rally stands alone as the world’s toughest automotive race, it also forms part of the FIA’s World Rally-Raid Championship, which was run for the first time in 2022. Nasser and Mathieu won the inaugural title in their GR DKR Hilux T1+, and victory at the Dakar Rally, Round 1 of the 2023 season, set them up for a tough fight over the remaining four races in the season. The first of these is the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which takes place at the end of February.
W2RC points are awarded to the driver and co-driver per stage of the rally, as well as for overall position at the end. Manufacturer points are awarded only for each event, and not for individual stages. At the end of Dakar 2023, Nasser and Mathieu had amassed 85 points, placing them two points adrift of the log leaders. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s tally came to 65 points, just one point shy of the lead.
#205 Giniel de Villiers / Dennis Murphy
Dakar 2023 was Giniel’s twentieth consecutive Dakar Rally, and also his twentieth consecutive finish. His admirable Dakar Rally record includes 15 Top 5 finishes, as well as victory in 2009. This year saw the Dakar veteran, again paired with co-driver Dennis Murphy, finish just off the podium, after a tough battle with the terrain.
For Giniel and Dennis, a multitude of punctures marred their results during the first week of the event. With the T1+ regulations allowing for only two spare wheels to be carried, competitors in this class had to be extremely cautious to avoid punctures, especially early in each stage, as early punctures would leave them vulnerable over an extended distance.
Giniel and Dennis twice fell foul to this problem, forcing them to slow their pace considerably, and costing significant time. The biggest blow came on Stage 3, when they lost 28min 40sec to the leaders, due to two early punctures. This saw them slip to 7th place in the overall standings, but things would improve steadily from there. By the time the rally reached the Rest Day, after eight tough stages in the northnern parts of Saudi Arabia, Giniel and Dennis were up to fifth place in the overall standings, 2hr 4min 20sec behind Nasser and Mathieu – but crucially only 12min behind fourth place.
The second week of the rally brought sandier terrain, which eased up on the tyres, but increased the level of concentration needed by the drivers. Giniel and Dennis used this to their advantage, consolidating their 5th position in the overall standings, until they moved up to 4th place on Stage 12, thanks in part to an error by teammates Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings.
Giniel and Dennis maintained their 4th place in the overall standings to the finish in Dammam, finishing off the podium, but contributing to Toyota’s undeniable dominance at this year’s Dakar Rally.
#217 Henk Lategan / Brett Cummings
The final TGR pairing in the 2023 Dakar Rally was former multiple South African Rally-Raid champions, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings. The pair took on the Dakar rally together for the third time, aiming to improve on their past results. The race started at a measured pace for the pair, as they went 11th-fastest in the opening stage, finding their feet in the shifting sands of the Saudi landscape.
They lost more than 30min, however, on Stage 2 when they also fell foul to punctures. In their case, they suffered two punctures early on, and another just 30km from the finish, leaving them stranded with no spare. Toyota privateers, Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk, stopped to give them a spare, allowing the TGR crew to continue without losing more time.
By Stage 3 Henk and Brett were into their stride, and they showed their class by posting the 2nd-fastest time on the day, just 3min 26sec behind the stage winners. This shifted them back up the order into 11th place overall, but it was still early days. By the end of Stage 4 they were up into 5th place, and after Stage 6 they found themselves in second overall! They reached the Rest Day after Stage 8 just 3min 46sec behind leaders Nasser and Mathieu, and looked set to carry their good form into the second week of the race.
A hard landing early into Stage 9, however, saw a rear damper break – possibly because the car was still carrying a heavy fuel load at the time. The crew was forced to stop and wait for technical assistance from the T5 truck, but aid came from an unexpected source: Yazeed Al Rajhi and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz stopped at the stricken TGR crew, and helped to strip the damper from their own car before installing it in the works team’s GR DKR Hilux T1+. This kept Henk and Brett in the race, though they lost 51min 35sec on the day, and slid down to 4th place in the overall standings.
The pair fought back in the next stage, but disaster struck in Stage 12 – the return leg of the feared Marathon Stage, between the Empty Quarter and Shaybah. They survived the out-leg of the Marathon, but rolled their car early in Stage 13. It took them more than 30min to make the running repairs needed to get their car back on the road, but had to complete the stage without rear brakes as a result of the crash. They lost a total of 48min 35sec on the day, and surrendered their fourth place to teammates Giniel and Dennis in the process.
Henk and Brett maintained their fifth place in the overall standings to the finish, ensuring that all three TGR cars remained in the Top 5. Toyota’s dominance at the 2023 Dakar Rally was underscored by Lucas and Timo, who finished in third place overall, making it four Toyota Hilux T1+ in the Top 5 – a power performance by the Japanese manufacturer.
DAKAR 2023: Final Standings
(QAT) NASSER AL-ATTIYAH
(FRA) MATHIEU BAUMEL
TOYOTA GAZOO RACING
GR DKR HILUX T1+
|45H 03' 15''|
(FRA) SEBASTIEN LOEB
(BEL) FABIAN LURQUIN
|BAHRAIN RAID XTREME||46H 24' 04''||+ 01H 20' 49''|
(BRA) LUCAS MORAES
(DEU) TIMO GOTTSCHALK
|OVERDRIVE RACING||46H 41' 46''||+ 01H 38' 31''|
(ZAF) GINIEL DE VILLIERS
(ZAF) DENNIS MURPHY
TOYOTA GAZOO RACING
GR DKR HILUX T1+
|47H 34' 27''||+ 02H 31' 12''|
(ZAF) HENK LATEGAN
(ZAF) BRETT CUMMINGS
TOYOTA GAZOO RACING
GR DKR HILUX T1+
|47H 39' 38''||+ 02H 36' 23''|
(CZE) MARTIN PROKOP
(CZE) VIKTOR CHYTKA
|ORLEN BENZINA TEAM||48H 43' 59''||+ 03H 40' 44''|
(ARG) JUAN CRUZ YACOPINI
(ESP) DANIEL OLIVERAS CARRERAS
|OVERDRIVE RACING||49H 30' 24''||+ 04H 27' 09''|
(CHN) WEI HAN
(CHN) MA LI
|HANWEI MOTORSPORT TEAM||49H 32' 36''||+ 04H 29' 21''|
(ARG) SEBASTIAN HALPERN
(ARG) BERNARDO GRAUE
|X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM||49H 45' 53''||+ 04H 42' 38''|
(FRA) GUERLAIN CHICHERIT
(FRA) ALEX WINOCQ
|GCK MOTORSPORT||50H 25' 25''||+ 05H 22' 10''|
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.