Fantastic start to 2019 Dakar Rally for Toyota SA

It was a fantastic start to Dakar 2019 when Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s three-Toyota Hilux team tackled the opening stage of the race on Monday, 7 January.

Former race winners Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel set the pace from the start, winning the opening stage by just shy of two minutes over last year’s winner, Carlos Sainz (Mini).

1 down, 9 to go

The pair, who also won the Rally of Morocco late in 2018, were simply superb in the dunes, and quickly caught up with Sainz. They elected to remain behind him, however, as the gains to be made weren’t worth the risk at this early stage.

READ: 2019 Dakar Rally: Al-Attiyah wins opening stage in Peru

"Nasser and Mathieu did exactly what was required of them," said an ecstatic Glyn Hall, Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA from the bivouac at Pisco.

"There’s always the temptation to throw caution to the wind, but Nasser is an old hand and knows what it takes to win not only stages, but the race overall," he added.

Al Attiyah/Baumel represents the spearhead of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA charge, with Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz completing the stage 02:40 behind their teammates, setting the 6th-fastest time in the process.

"We decided to go at a good pace, rather than push too hard on the opening stage. There’s very little time to be made on such a relatively short stage, but even a small mistake can put you on the back foot for the remainder of the race," said De Villiers after completing the 84km-long test

Happy with the performance

Dutch star Bernhard ten Brinke, partnered with French navigator Xavier Panseri, had much the same outlook. The pair set the 8th-fastest time, just over three minutes behind Al Attiyah/Baumel.

All three crews reported flawless performances by the Toyota Hilux, and were extremely positive about the suspension setup. With that said, the team completed a final test on De Villiers’ car during the stage, and will now apply the results for the rest of the race.

Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator

                                                                          Image: CRIS BOURONCLE / AFP

"We are really pleased with our performance today. All three crews did exactly what we had planned, and I think the team is full of positive energy at this point. We have every reason to be upbeat, and we are looking forward to tomorrow’s long stage," said Hall.

Stage 2 is 342km in length, and as with the opening stage, will be run mainly on massive sand dunes. This offers a stern navigational challenge for the co-pilots, while also testing the cars and drivers to their limits.

Dakar 2019 comprises 10 stages, with a rest day at the midpoint. Stage 2 will see the crews start in the coastal town of Pisco, before heading southwards to San Juan de Marcona. The race will finish on 17 January, in the Peruvian capital of Lima.