• 2nd on stage for Al-Attiyah/Baumel
  • 2nd overall for Al-Attiyah/Baumel
  • 8th overall for De Villiers/Haro
  • 21st overall for Variawa/Murphy
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA – Dakar 2021 drew to a close in the Saudi city of Jeddah, following a final stage of 200km from the city of Yanbu. Stage 12 of the rally was won by MINI’s Carlos Sainz, with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel in second place, 2min 13sec from the stage-winning time. This was good enough for second place in the overall results, with the Toyota Hilux crew trailing race winner, Stéphane Peterhansel (MINI), home by 13min 51sec after 4,400km of competitive racing.

“This is a fantastic result for us, with the Toyota Hilux winning the four-wheel-drive category again,” said Al-Attiyah after arriving in Jeddah. “I’m really proud of the team and would like to thank the entire TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team for the hard work they’ve put in to make this a reality.”

The race turned into an uphill struggle for veteran Giniel de Villiers and his Spanish navigator, Alex Haro, when they lost significant time due to navigational problems early in the race. Two dozen punctures over the course of the race added to their woes, but to their credit, the pair never gave up and pushed their Toyota Hilux to the limit. Their efforts were rewarded with a stage win, but in the end they finished in 8th overall.

“Dakar 2021 was really a little disappointing for us,” said De Villiers after the race. “Nothing seemed to go right from the start. We had a total of 24 punctures, including a last one today, and we had a few issues with navigation during the race. We also had a broken side shaft on one occasion, so a lot of time lost. It was a difficult rally, but it’s always a good feeling to finish a Dakar. We never gave up, and we have a strong car in the Hilux. Nasser showed that with his five stage wins, and we picked up a nice stage win, too. I’d like to congratulate Stéphane on his 14th Dakar win, his 8th in the car category – a tremendous achievement. For us, we’ll come back fighting again next year.”

The race brought Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy a result that gave both of them reason to smile: The pair finished their first Dakar together, finishing in 21st place in the overall rankings. This was a sweet return to Dakar for Variawa, whose first attempt at the race in 2019 saw the businessman retire at the halfway mark. This time, Variawa and Murphy brought the Toyota Hilux home, and recorded several power results along the way.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Twelve days of racing and it has been up and down,” said Variawa. “We had issues at the start but we overcame that and kept on pushing and pushing. And here we are at the end of the rally, even though we had one more puncture on the final stage. It’s a great feeling to finish the Dakar on my second attempt. And this time it was with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, which makes it even better.”

Overall, the team recorded six stage wins, with Yazeed Al Rajhi adding two more wins to Toyota’s overall tally. The only mechanical problems encountered by the Toyota Hilux was two broken side shafts, which the crews fixed on site. This is testimony to the toughness of the car, which has again proven that it can tackle any terrain.

The only damper for the team was the crash that saw Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings retire on Stage 5. The pair had a rough start to the rally, but powered their way to the top of the field on stages 3 and 4, showing their class. Sadly, the fairy tale ended abruptly when they hit a ditch early in Stage 5, and even though the Toyota Hilux was not severely damaged, Lategan suffered mild injuries to his shoulder, and had to be airlifted to hospital. The double South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) champions spent the remainder of the race following the rally, learning as much as possible in preparation for their next assault on the world’s toughest automotive race.

“Firstly, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences on behalf of the entire TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Dakar team to the family and friends of Pierre Cherpin,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the race concluded in Jeddah, “who sadly passed away after suffering a crash on his bike earlier in the race. His death is a sad reminder of the dangers we face as racing drivers and navigators, but his spirit lives on in the crews who continue to fight for victory and adventure on races such as Dakar. For us, this year’s race brough the joys of many stage wins, both for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and Toyota as a brand. I am extremely proud of everything we achieved here this year, and cannot thank Nasser and Mathieu enough for their fighting spirit and tenacity.

“The same goes for Giniel and Alex, as well as Shameer and Dennis, who never gave up the fight and continually pushed the limits of their own endurance and that of our tough Toyota Hilux. We may not have won the race, but we fought valiantly, and I’m proud of the team.”