Brussels, Belgium,

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews survive challenging Dakar opening stage

  • Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro were the best-performing TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crew in eighth place after the 277 km opening stage of Dakar 2021 from Jeddah to Bisha, suffering three punctures that cost them valuable time.
  • Winners of yesterday’s Prologue, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, found it tough to open the route and lost 12min 34sec to the leaders, completing the first day in 10th place.
  • Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy, who started from the 26th position on the road, put in a solid performance to finish the opening stage in 12th, 14min 59sec adrift of the leaders.
  • The challenging first stage saw Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings lose 18min 31sec to the leaders, posting the 14th-fastest time. They suffered multiple punctures and found the navigation tough, but are in a good position for Stage 2, which features a timed section of 457 kilometres between Bisha and Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

Glyn Hall, Team Principal: When we first saw the times today, we were very concerned. We later learned that Nasser had suffered a puncture and held some performance in reserve over the rocky sections. He lost 12 minutes to Carlos Sainz who won the stage. Under the circumstances, we are happy with his pace today. Henk and Brett also had three punctures which we can maybe chalk up to a lack of experience over the rocky terrain. Had they not lost that time, they’d probably have finished in the top five, but we can only work with the facts. Shameer had a really good stage today, and is in a great starting position for tomorrow. So, overall it is looking pretty good after a lot of tension during the day.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (No. 301): It was tough to open the stage today and we knew from the start that we would be losing time. There was a lot of dust from the bikes ahead of us and in places there was simply no road, so we had to find the way and lay tracks. But despite this, I’m quite happy with what we achieved today and I’m looking forward to taking on a fresh challenge tomorrow.”

Giniel de Villiers (No. 304): “It was a really hard stage, and I expected our performance to put us further down the order. We had three punctures unfortunately, despite trying to be very careful at the start of the stage. The last one was close to the finish and I tried to make it home but just couldn’t get to the finish, so we had to stop and change it. We also had one navigational problem that saw us go up the wrong valley for about two kilometres before turning around. Under the circumstances, not too bad. Even though we lost some time, we’ll battle on tomorrow.”

Henk Lategan (No. 332): “Today was a baptism of fire. Whatever could go wrong, and whatever mistakes we could make, we made them. We were only a few kilometres in when we got lost for the first time and I’m sure some of the other cars came past us. We lost our way a second time, but finally got into a rhythm and started catching some of the cars ahead of us. This put us right in their dust, in the rockiest part of the stage. We would push to get past, but then get a puncture straightaway. In the end, we had three punctures, got lost twice and had to overtake a number of other crews. It was madness, and not the best way to start our first Dakar.”

Shameer Variawa (No. 330): “This morning we caught up with three or four of the cars ahead, and had to pass them in the dust. Next, we reached a rocky section where we got a puncture, but after that no problems. We had a moment when we smelled something burning in the car, so we pulled over to look for the problem, but couldn’t find it and decided to continue. The dust from the many motorcycles that we passed was also a challenge, but overall we are pleased with today’s performance.”


2021 Dakar Rally Day 1 Results:

8th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +9min 59sec

10th No. 301 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +12min 34sec

12th No.330 Shameer Variawa/Dennis Murphy, +14min 59sec

14th No. 332 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings, +18min 31sec


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