TGR’s Nasser and Mathieu clinch opening stage victory at 2023 Sonora rally
• Opening stage win for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel
• Faultless performance by both crew and car
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's dynamic duo, Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Mathieu Baumel of France, made a triumphant comeback at the 2023 Sonora Rally, Round 3 of the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC), by winning the opening stage. Al-Attiyah and Baumel are competing in the formidable GR DKR Hilux T1+ racing car, the same vehicle that secured them victories in both the 2022 and 2023 Dakar Rallies.
Stage 1 of the Sonora Rally started and finished near the Mexican town of Hermosillo, covering a distance of 170 km, with a liaison distance of 165 km. Al-Attiyah and Baumel started as the third car on the road, following their victory in yesterday's Prologue event. This advantageous position allowed them to attack and ultimately secure a 27-second victory over the second-placed crew of Yazeed Al Rajhi and co-driver Timo Gottschalk, in a privately entered Toyota Hilux T1+.
The terrain surrounding Hermosillo is characterized by a mix of desert landscapes, rugged mountain ranges, and arid plains. The Sonoran Desert, one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America, covers a significant portion of the region. The area features various types of vegetation, such as cacti, including the iconic saguaro, and other desert-adapted plants.
Driving conditions in the region can be quite challenging due to the diverse terrain, including rocky trails, dry riverbeds, and sandy dunes. Competitors in events like the Sonora Rally must navigate these demanding conditions, which test both the drivers' skills and the performance and durability of their vehicles.
With four stages left in the Sonora Rally, which concludes on April 28 in San Luis, Mexico, this victory brings the team closer to the championship leader. The experienced crew have already proven their capabilities by winning the 2023 Dakar Rally (Round 1 of the W2RC) but faced a setback after crashing out of Round 2, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. They now trail the current championship leaders in the season standings, making a top finish in Mexico crucial to their title defense.
Looking ahead, Stage 2 of the Sonora Rally will see the teams move from Hermosillo to the town of Peñasco, via a timed stage of 285 km. Liaisons totalling 265 km will link the stage to the starting and ending bivouacs, presenting another challenging day for the competitors.
Alain Dujardyn, TGR W2RC Team Principal: "We are extremely pleased with the performance of the GR DKR Hilux T1+ during today's stage. The vehicle's reliability and endurance in the challenging terrain of the Sonora Rally have been remarkable. This win is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire team, and we are excited to carry this momentum into the upcoming stages of the rally."
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “For us, the opening stage was very good. There was a lot of fesh-fesh, and the navigation wasn’t easy. But Mathieu did a good job, and in the end, we managed to gain more than 2min 30sec on our championship rival, Sebastien Loeb. This is very important to us in the bigger picture, and we hope we can continue doing the same in the upcoming stages.”
Mathieu Baumel: “I didn’t expect the stage to be quite as difficult as it was. But we had a good starting position, and in this case not opening the road was quite an advantage. I’m not sure what Stage 2 is like, but I certainly hope it resembles the end of the opening stage, which offered better tracks, making it easier to find the correct route.”
STAGE 1 RESULTS:
|1||N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) / M. BAUMEL (FRA)||T1||#201 - TOYOTA GAZOO RACING|
|2||Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) / T. GOTTSCHALK (DEU)||T1||#207 - OVERDRIVE RACING|
|3||G. CHICHERIT (FRA) / A. WINOCQ (FRA)||T1||#204 – GUERLAIN CHICHERIT|
|4||S. LOEB (FRA) / F. LURQUIN (BEL)||T1||#200 – BAHRAIN RAID XTREME|
|5||S. HALPERN (ARG) / B. GRAUE (ARG)||T1||#205 – X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM|
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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.