Midrand built machines take pole and second spots at 2021 Dakar prologue
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Taye Perry drove their SA-built Hilux and Century CR6 to first and second place in identical time.
Toyota Gazoo Racing and triple Dakar winner and second place finisher in the 2020 Dakar rally Nasser Al-Attiyah emerged top during Saturday’s Prologue for the 2021 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.
The Qatari racer was fastest in the 11km timed section that normally decides the starting grid of the official that starts on Sunday 3 January. However competitors will attest to this being merely a formality that will not guarantee total victory. Only luck, determination and consistency promises a good chance of a win.
Al-Attiyah’s and navigator Mathieu Baumel's time of 5m48s places Toyota in pole position for the race start and it’s a confidence booster for the rest of the other four Gazoo Racing Hilux teams which are filled mostly by SA racers, including Capetonian Giniel de Villiers who finished 18th at the end of the day’s running.
The other big news from the prologue is that second spot was snatched away by a pair of privateer SA racers. Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry, one of few female racers in the Dakar, and who hail from East London, drove their Midrand, Johannesburg-built Racing Century CR6 Buggy to second position in an identical time to Al-Attiyah but in the two-wheel drive vehicle category.
SA’s Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings came seventh in their first ever Dakar as Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro suffered a throttle response problem at the start of the stage, and lost some time resetting the system. They managed to restrict their time loss to 20 seconds despite the problem, but will be starting Stage 1 in 19th place, this according to Toyota SA.
Meanwhile the other Hilux with SA competitors Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy was 33 seconds off the pace. They’ll be starting as the 26th car on the road.
The first member of the Mini X-raid JCW team that won last year’s race was Orlando Terranova who came sixth, some 14 seconds behind the Toyota of Al-Attiyah. Stephane Peterhansel finished 14th while reigning champ Carlos Sainz managed 28th.
“We are very pleased with Nasser and Mathieu setting the fastest time. They’ve proven before that they are happy to attack from the front,” TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall, said after the 11km prologue.
“Henk and Brett did exactly what we had hoped they’d do — a solid performance that places them in a good position for Stage 1,” concluded Hall.
The Dakar rally kicks off on Sunday 3 January with Stage 1 being a 622km section that comprises a liaison of 345km, and a timed section of 277km. The route will see the crews tackle sandy tracks, strewn with rocks in places. Protecting the tyres will be key in these conditions.