Sports

Al-Attiyah seals his fourth Dakar Rally win

January 15, 2022

RIYADH — Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah led the 44th Dakar Rally from the opening qualifying stage to the final special and managed his pace to perfection to seal a fourth victory on the world’s most famous off-road rally.

Benefiting from the meticulous navigational skills of his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel, the Qatari won just three of the 13 stages but applied a master class race strategy to eventually record a winning margin of 27min 46sec over nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb. The fourth success for Al-Attiyah meant that he equaled Ari Vatanen winning quartet set in Africa.

Al-Attiyah said: “It was an incredible Dakar for us. We hadn’t won since 2019. We’re pleased with the new T1+ regulations. Mathieu and I and the team did a great job to win. We had finished second every time since we came to Saudi Arabia two years ago and now we are really happy to achieve our goal. The whole race went without a hitch. We were on high alert, but now we know that we have an amazing car and we will do our best for the World Championship.

“We opened up a gap on the first day and have since managed our lead. We’re fortunate to get to race the Dakar in Saudi Arabia and I would like to thank the government for this opportunity to discover such breath-taking landscapes.”

Overdrive Racing teammate Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his co-driver Michael Orr held second overall at the rest day, before slipping behind Loeb after the resumption of competition. The Saudi recorded a well-deserved podium finish on his home event to give Toyota a 1-3 finish.

Al-Rajhi said: “I’m really happy and would like to thank everyone who supports me, the mechanics and Jean-Marc Fortin, as well as the organizers. I’m on the podium, but what really matters is that the whole field got to enjoy the race in Saudi Arabia. I’m also pleased for all the spectators who watched us and, of course, I am happy with our podium spot.”

Bahrain Raid Xtreme rounded off the 44th Dakar Rally with a place in the record books with Loeb and Lurquin taking their BRX Prodrive Hunter to the fourth best time on the 164 km stage from Bisha to Jeddah to secure second place overall.

With the stage win going to South African Henk Lategan, Loeb’s BRX teammates Orlando Terranova and Dani Oliveras cruised to sixth place on the day to record a fourth place outright finish, the Argentine driver’s best Dakar result to date.

Nani Roma and Alex Haro also brought their Prodrive Hunter home to make BRX the first top Dakar team to complete the rally with a full complement of cars running on next generation advanced sustainable fuel.

It has been a highly impressive competitive debut for the new Hunter T1+, with all three BRX cars in Saudi Arabia powered by the Prodrive EcoPower fuel which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to petrol.

Loeb said at the finish: “It was a good rally. We lost some time at the beginning with some technical problems. After that we really pushed hard to close the gap with Nasser, but he did a really good job so it was impossible. But we finished second in a great rally, so it's not so bad.”

Terranova said: “That was a fantastic rally. The teamwork was genuinely incredible as it felt like a family from the beginning. The first week maybe we lost a little bit of time but in the second week we made some great stage times. I feel very comfortable as the car is fantastic and the human relationship in the team is great for our job.”

Al-Attiyah’s Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Giniel de Villiers overcame his own fair share of dramas and a time penalty to win a stage. He and co-driver Dennis Murphy reached Jeddah in fifth place.

Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke stood in for Erik van Loon at the 11th hour and teamed up with French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay. He recovered well from early time delays and began a gradual fight back through the field, setting a sixth fastest time in SS7 and a fourth quickest run on the final stage. Ten Brinke reached Jeddah in 17th.

Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez and his Spanish navigator Armand Monleón held a top five position for long periods of the Dakar and even set a second quickest time. But punctures and a differential failure cost the Argentine dearly and he slipped out of contention for the top 10. Excellent performances on the run in to Jeddah earned the Toyota Hilux driver 18th place.

Juan Cruz Yacopini and Alejandro Yacopini reached the end of the Dakar in 20th in their Overdrive Racing Toyota, the French duo of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot were classified in 22nd and Portugal’s Miguel Barbosa and Pedro Velosa completed the rally in 35th.

The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team entered four Overdrive-built OT3s. Young American racer Seth Quintero teamed up with Germany’s Dennis Zenz and entered the Dakar record books for winning 12 of the event’s 13 stages. Only a delay with technical issues early in the rally prevented the 19-year-old from winning the FIA T3 category. He was classified in 15th.

After surpassing Hubert Auriol’s nine successes earned on a motorcycle in 1984, he went on to shatter Pierre Lartigue’s record of 10 stage victories from 1994.

“It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” said Quintero. “We did 13 stages with 12 wins. Every day was an adventure in itself and I was trying to take it day-by-day. Dennis did an amazing job. Stage two definitely crosses my mind quite a bit. If we’d had 30 less kilometers on that stage it would have been pretty good.

“You never know. In some ways it took a lot of pressure off us and I had a lot of fun for all the Dakar! We are now the sole record holder for the most stage wins on a single Dakar, which is absolutely mind-blowing. I came here to try sand become the youngest ever to win a Dakar but, in the end, we’ve broken another record.”

Spanish female racer Cristina Gutièrrez and French co-driver François Cazalet eventually finished third in the FIA T3 category behind Chile’s Francisco Lopez and Sweden’s Sebastian Eriksson. Guillaume de Mevius teamed up with America’s Kellon Walch but endured a troubled Dakar. Hefty time penalties knocked the Belgian down the rankings after week one transmission issues and he retired two days before the finish.

Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen was a last-minute replacement for Mitch Guthrie, but he was forced to retire before the rest day with roll cage damage.

The Dakar Rally was the opening round of the new FIA World Rally-Raid Championship

which continues in March with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ahead of the other rounds in Kazakhstan, Spain and Morocco. — SG


January 15, 2022
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