TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has successfully cleared all the hurdles for access to Dakar 2021, and the team is primed for action, starting with the short prologue on January 2nd. The prologue will be used to determine the starting positions, but at only 11km in length, it isn’t likely to play a major role in the outcome of the race, barring any accidents.In the meantime, the team had to conform to the strict COVID-19 protocols that are in place for the 2021 edition of the world’s toughest automotive race. This included self-isolating at an hotel in Jeddah for 48 hours after arrival, followed by a COVID-19 test conducted by the race organisers in conjunction with local health authorities. The team then had to isolate again, until the test results came back negative, before being allowed to move around with restrictions.
“It has certainly been a different Dakar experience,” says TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “We had to assemble the cars in the hotel car park, as we weren’t allowed to leave the premises. Even now, we have to limit our interactions with the local populace, and always conform to the race’s COVID-19 protocols.”
With the entire team testing negative for the virus, work could start on packing the support trucks for the race, and also completing a short shakedown session, to the northeast of Jeddah. The shakedown route comprised only 7 km of rough track, and was shared with all the competitors in the race. This meant that the surface was churned up by the big trucks, which made it tricky for the crews to find any real value in the session.
“Even so, we were able to check that everything worked as expected, which is really the purpose of a shakedown. And we’re happy to report that all four cars performed as expected, which should mean that we are now ready to take on the prologue tomorrow afternoon,” concluded Hall.
The team will remain in Jeddah after the prologue, before taking on Stage 1 early on January 3rd. Stage 1 will see the Dakar leave Jeddah in a south-easterly direction to the town of Bishah via a stage of 622km in total length. This includes a liaison of 345km and a timed section of 277km over rough tracks and broken terrain which could be tough on the tyres.