Stage 2 of Dakar 2021 brought mixed results for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, with Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel winning the 477 km-long test; while Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro lost significant time due to navigational challenges. Overall, Al-Attiyah/Baumel are now in third place overall, and they trail rally leader, Stephane Peterhansel (MINI), by 9min 14sec in the overall standings.
The Qatari Hilux driver was on the warpath right from the start of Stage 2, which took the rally from the town of Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir, powering his South African-built Toyota Hilux to a stage win in a time of 4hr 03min 14sec. Significantly, this was 2min 35sec faster than the time of Peterhansel, and 9min 17sec faster than defending champion Carlos Sainz (MINI), who won the opening stage.
“Nasser was absolutely on it today,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after all four cars made it safely back to the bivouac after the stage. “He pushed really hard throughout the stage, and really made no mistakes, with Mathieu doing a great job. Without any punctures, he was able to not only match the pace of the two MINIs, but to finish ahead of both of them. This keeps him in the thick of the fight at the front end of the field.”
There was disappointment for Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, in the #304 Toyota Hilux, when they lost 45min 22sec on the stage due to a navigational mistake. They had plenty of pace in the mid-part of the timed section, but in the end they slipped down to 23rd in the overall standings after a time penalty for missing a waypoint, and will now have to claw their way back over the course of the race.
Rookie Henk Lategan described Stage 2 as “another very long day” on the Dakar, as the double South African Cross-Country (SACCS) champion discovers what the world’s toughest automotive event is all about. Even so, Lategan and his navigator, Brett Cummings, managed to post the 14th fastest time on the stage, despite getting stuck on the very first dune they encountered. They lost more time with navigation, but matched the pace of the leaders when they found themselves in clear air.
“For sure, Henk had a tough day at the office, but he’s here mainly to learn about the Dakar,” continued Hall. “As such, he’s certainly getting the tough miles under his belt, and I’m happy that he is making progress on the steep learning curve that Dakar demands.”
Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy had a long day in Stage 2. The pair got severely stuck in the soft dunes near the start of the stage, and were forced to dig out the car by hand, after one of the jacks on their car lost a base plate. In the end, they completed the stage as the 52nd car, in a time that was 2hr 19min 04sec behind Al-Attiyah. They have slid down to 45th place in the overall standings as a result.
Stage 3 follows, and comprises a looped route that starts and ends in Wadi Ad-Dawasir, on the edge of Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter. A timed section of 403 km, together with a liaison of 227 km will see the crews take on fields of small dunes as well as some fast tracks that may prove pivotal in the outcome of the race.