Köln, Germany,

Solid start for Toyota as TGR takes on W2RC Round 3 in Portugal

  • 3rd on opening stage for Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon
  • 7th on opening stage for Saood Variawa and Francois Cazalet
  • Three Toyota Hilux at the top of Stage 1 standings
  • Early trouble for Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz

Round 3 of the 2024 World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) started with a short Prologue, as well as the opening stage, on April 3. Three factory cars are competing for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR), with Lucas Moraes and co-driver Armand Monleon spearheading the attack. The BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, as the event is officially known, takes place in parts of both Portugal and Spain, and will be contested over five tough stages. As it turned out, the opening stage brought a solid start for Toyota as a manufacturer, though an early setback forced Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz to retire from the stage.

The Prologue, which is used to determine the starting orders for Stage 1, was contested over a distance of only 4km, near the race HQ and bivouac at Grandola in Portugal. The pick of the TGR crews was Lucas and Armand, who went 5th-fastest. Seth and Dennis posted the 8th-fastest time, while Saood Variawa and Francois Cazalet, in their first W2RC season, posted the 34th-fastest time. All three crews are fielding versions of the GR DKR Hilux, similar to those raced by a number of privateer crews, also taking part in Portugal and Spain.

With a good road position, Lucas and Armand attacked from the start. They pushed hard throughout the 101 km-long special stage, which featured varied terrain and tight, winding tracks. Their time of 1hr 14min 42sec was just 48sec slower than the winning time, which was posted by Guerlain Chicherit and Mathieu Baumel, in a privately entered Toyota Hilux. Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk were second-fastest, surrendering only 28sec to the stage winners.

Saood and Francois drove a solid opening stage, posting the 7th-best time despite starting well down the order in 34th place. They finished just 1min 20 behind the leaders, and find themselves well within the Top 10 after the opening stage.

A ceased alternator brought heartache for Seth and Dennis, after a promising start. The cause of the problem is still to be confirmed, but the muddy water splashes the cars traversed on the opening stage may well have played a role in the part's failure. The crew stopped to fit an emergency alternator belt carried aboard the Toyota Hilux after the car's main belt came off the pulleys. The emergency belt, too, came off just a few kilometres further, as the alternator had completely ceased up. While the car could still be driven safely without the belt, the power steering system would not be active. Despite a valiant effort, they found it impossible to continue without power steering, and elected to return to the bivouac via the assistance route. This effectively removes them from a chance of winning the event, but they are still eligible to score points towards the W2RC over the remainder of the event, and will be pushing for solid results over the coming days.

Stage 2 of the 5-stage event will again see the crews start and finish at the bivouac in Grandola. Their day will start with a short liaison of 12km, before tackling a special stage of 166km over more tight and muddy tracks. Finally, a liaison of 23km will see them return to the bivouac. The rally will visit western Spain briefly, before returning to Portugal for the closing stages, with the event finishing in Grandola on April 7th.



Alain Dujardyn, W2RC Team Principal: 

"Today was an excellent day for Toyota as a brand. With three of our Toyota Hilux at the top of the standings, we have every reason to be happy. From a TGR point of view, it is great to have Lucas and Armand up in third place, scoring some valuable points towards the W2RC. At the same time, we are disappointed that a seemingly small technical problem forced Seth and Dennis to retire from the stage, but we are hoping for good stage results from them over the coming days."

Lucas Moraes: 

"Today's stage was a lot of fun, but very tricky at the same time. We finished third overall on a busy day, because we had the Prologue in the morning and then the stage that was split into two parts followed. I'm happy with the team, who again delivered an amazing car. To be honest, it's good just to be back after what happened in Abu Dhabi. That was a really tough pill to swallow, but third now, with a long rally still ahead of us. Let's keep going!"

Seth Quintero: 

"The beginning of the day went really well for us. We were looking forward to having a good day and had a good pace at the start there in Stage 1. Unfortunately, about 30 kilometres in, we ended up chucking an alternator belt, but we got it fixed pretty quickly. Then it happened again, and we knew we had a little bit of a different issue. We ended up having an alternator lock up on us. It was kind of a freak deal. Not too sure what caused that. Maybe a little rock got in there or something. We couldn't free up the alternator and just couldn't run in those tight trees without power steering or anything like that. It was an unfortunate start to our rally. It seems like we're kind of out of it now. Now we just have to go out, score points and have some fun."


BP Ultimate Rally Raid 2024 – Prologue RESULTS

1#201 N. Al-Attiyah / E. Boulanger(Nasser Racing by Prodrive) 3min 41sec
2#316L. Portela Morais / D. Megre (G Rally Team) +00:04
3#315M. Barbosa / L. Ramalho (Overdrive Racing) +00:05
4#311J. Dias / J. Miranda (Santag Racing) +00:06
5#205L. Moraes / A. Monleon (Toyota GAZOO Racing) +00:06
6#300R. Baciuska / O. Vidal(CAN-AM Factory Team)+00:07
7#308C. Gutierrez / P. Moreno Huete(Red Bull Junior Team)+00:07
8#206S. Quintero / D. Zenz(Toyota GAZOO Racing) +00:08
9#320L. Cidade / P. Mendonca(Santag Racing)+00:09
10#312A. Araujo / P. Re (Santag Racing)+00:10


BP Ultimate Rally Raid 2024 – Stage 1 RESULTS

1#202 G. Chicherit / M. Baumel(Overdrive Racing)1h 13min 54sec
2#204Y. Al Rajhi / T. Gottschalk(Overdrive Racing)+00:28
3#205L. Moraes / A. Monleon (Toyota GAZOO Racing) +00:48
4#216V. Zala / P. Fiuza (Unique Racing Team) +00:48
5#200C. Sainz / A. Haro (X-Raid Mini JCW Team) +01:17
6#201N. Al-Attiyah / E. Boulanger(Nasser Racing by Prodrive)+01:19
7#208S. Variawa / F. Cazalet(Toyota GAZOO Racing)+01:20
8#311J. Dias / J. Miranda (Santag Racing)    +01:31
9#214J. Ferreira / F. Palmeiro(X-Raid Mini JCW Team)+02:05
10#313A. Pinto / B. Oliveira(Alexandre Pinto)                  +02:08



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 TGR over numerous years, and the involvement bore fruit when the team won a second Dakar title in January 2022, and a third in 2023.

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