• First stage win at Dakar 2021 for De Villiers/Haro
  • 4th on stage for Al-Attiyah/Baumel
  • Lategan/Cummings retire after crash
AL QAISUMAH, SAUDI ARABIA – A first stage win at Dakar 2021 for Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, together with a solid 4th place for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel from first on the road, meant that Stage 5 of the world’s toughest automotive race will long be remembered by the team. However, the delight was tempered by the retirement of rookie Henk Lategan and his navigator Brett Cummings, after a heavy crash near the start of the stage.

The pair were the third car to start the 456 km-long stage between the Saudi capital of Riyadh and Al Qaisumah to the North. They got off to a good start, but hit a ditch just 19 km into the stage, flipping the Toyota Hilux end over end. The pair escaped serious injury – testimony to the toughness of the Hilux – but Henk injured his shoulder, and had to be flown to a hospital for a detailed assessment of his injury. More information will follow in due course, but the unfortunate accident brings an end to a stunning Dakar debut for the 26-year-old.

“Hearing about a crash always sets your heart racing, and we were very relieved to hear that the injuries were minor. Henk and Brett really only came to Dakar to learn this year, but they quickly showed that they have the pace to mix it up with the top drivers in the world,” said a disappointed TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “From what we know, today’s crash was an absolute accident. Pure bad luck at exactly the wrong place. But despite their premature exit, Henk and Brett have made their mark on the biggest cross-country stage in the world, and we’re looking forward to watching their progress in the months and years to come.”

De Villiers/Haro started Stage 5 as the 22nd car on the road, after losing nearly two hours over the opening stages of the race. They fought back on the stage to Al Qaisumah, however, winning the stage by 58sec over Brian Baragwanath (Century CR-6). This catapulted them from 23rd overall to 12th, with their sights now set firmly on the Top 10 positions.

“Winning a stage on the Dakar is always special,” said De Villiers after reaching the bivouac. “And it was a great return to form for Alex and I, after some problems with navigation early on in the race. We’re still quite far back from the leaders, but you never know what happens in the Dakar, and we’ll keep pushing over the coming stages.”

At the same time, Al-Attiyah/Baumel continued their quest to close the gap to Stephane Peterhansel in the Mini, who started the stage with a lead of 3min 58sec in the overall standings. The Qatari and his French codriver started the stage as the first car on the road, and initially managed to hold off the assault from the crews who started lower down the order. In the end, however, Peterhansel posted a time 2min 13sec faster than the Toyota Hilux crew, extending his lead to 6min 11sec overall. With a more competitive road position for Stage 6, Al-Attiyah/Baumel will be poised for maximum attack in the run to the rest day at Ha’il.

Stage 5 also saw Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy record a solid stage, though they again started down the order, placing them in the dust of the competitors around them. They finished as the 30th on the stage, and leapfrogged from 42nd place to 33rd as a result.

“Despite Henk and Brett’s exit from the race, we have to chalk Stage 5 up as a good one. With Giniel winning the stage and Nasser staying in touch with the lead, we are in a good position overall,” concluded Hall. “We’ve got one more stage before we reach the rest day and the entire team is looking forward to the short break at Ha’il.”

The final stage before the rest day will see the Dakar leave from Al Qaisumah for the city of Ha’il, further to the North. A liaison of 170 km will link the 448 km-long timed section between the two bivouacs, along a route that promises a mass of dunes and sandy tracks, where navigation and skill will play key roles. The Dakar will take a break at Ha’il, before the marathon stage commences after the rest day.