Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel finished Dakar 2021 in second place overall, after completing the final 200 kilometre-long stage from Yanbu to Jeddah.
The pair trailed rally winner Stéphane Peterhansel by 13min 51sec after twelve competitive stages with a total timed race distance of 4,400 kilometres. Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro completed the final stage in 10th place, after suffering one mid-stage puncture and losing time due to navigation. They brought their Toyota Hilux home in eighth place overall, 3hr 57min 39sec behind the winner. A finish was the target for Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy, after the driver’s failed attempt at Dakar 2019. They finished this year’s event in 21st position, and recorded a number of highly competitive stage results during the rally. Over the course of Dakar 2021, Nasser and Mathieu recorded five stage victories and a further stage win by Giniel and Alex. In total, Toyota Hilux entries topped eight out of the 12 stages.
Prologue, Jeddah (11 kilometres)
The 2021 edition of the Dakar Rally started with a Prologue on January 2 to determine starting positions on the outskirts of Jeddah. Nasser and Mathieu placed their Toyota Hilux in the best possible start position for Stage 1 after finishing fastest on the 11-kilometre route. Dakar debutant Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings demonstrated their capabilities and would start their first Dakar Rally together in seventh position. Giniel and Alex encountered a throttle response problem at the start of the Prologue and finished in 18th position, while teammates Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy came in 26th.
Stage 1, Jeddah – Bisha (277 kilometres)
Prologue winners, Nasser and Mathieu, found it tough to open the route and lost 12min 34sec to the leaders, completing the first day in 10th place. Giniel and Alex were the best-performing Toyota Gazoo Racing crew with an eighth place finish after the 277-kilometre opening stage from Jeddah to Bisha, suffering three punctures that cost them valuable time. The challenging first stage saw Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings lose 18min 31sec to the leaders, posting the 14th fastest time. They suffered multiple punctures and found the navigation tough, but were in a good position for Stage 2, which featured a timed section of 457 kilometres between Bisha and Wadi Ad-Dawasir. Shameer and Dennis, who started from the 26th position on the road, put in a solid performance to finish the opening stage in 12th, 14min 59sec adrift of the leaders
Stage 2, Bisha – Wadi Ad-Dawasir (457 kilometres)
Winners of the 2019 Dakar Rally, Nasser and Mathieu, recorded their first stage win of the 2021 event by posting the fastest time on Stage 2. The strong stage result propelled them into third position in the overall standings, 9min 14sec behind the lead. After a good performance on the opening stage, Giniel and Alex lost more than 45 minutes due to navigational difficulties, completing the stage in 38th place. To make matters worse, the pair were penalised for missing a waypoint and ended in 23rd overall after Stage 2. Henk and Brett finished Stage 2 in 14th despite losing time after getting stuck in the dunes at the start of the stage. They lost additional time due to navigational problems, dropping to 16th overall. Shameer and Dennis lost over two hours on Stage 2 after getting severely stuck in the soft dunes near the start of the timed section to finish the day 45th overall.
Stage 3, Wadi Ad-Dawasir – Wadi Ad-Dawasir (403 kilometres)
Nasser and Mathieu recorded their second consecutive stage win when they powered their Toyota Hilux to the fastest time over 403 kilometres of dunes and sandy tracks that made up Stage 3 of the event, a loop starting and ending in Wadi Ad-Dawasir. The strong performance moved them into second position in the overall standings, just over five minutes behind the lead. Newcomer Henk and navigator Brett drove a perfect stage to record the second fastest time, trailing teammates Nasser and Mathieu by just 2min 27sec. The impressive performance rocketed the pair to seventh position overall as the leading rookie crew, 47min 25sec from the lead. Dakar veteran Giniel and navigator Alex started the day as the 17th car into the stage which brought more challenges for the embattled crew. Having lost more than two hours on the previous day, the pair suffered a broken driveshaft early on in Stage 3, which not only cost them time for repairs, but dropped them into the dust of slower competitors. Two punctures added to their woes, losing 37min 47sec. Shameer and Dennis also suffered a broken driveshaft early on, followed by five punctures, costing the crew more than two hours but they improved to 44th place overall.
Stage 4, Wadi Ad-Dawasir – Riyadh (337 kilometres)
Stage 4 of Dakar 2021 brought a third consecutive stage win for Nasser and Mathieu after they beat their closest competitor by 11 seconds over the 337-kilometre timed section between Wadi Ad-Dawasir and the Saudi capital Riyadh. The pair, second in the overall standings, reduced their gap to the overall lead to under five minutes despite their position as pathfinder at the head of the field. Henk and Brett pushed teammate Nasser throughout the day, even beating the Qatari through some waypoints. Henk showed maturity and skill to finish third on the stage, trailing Nasser by just 1min 30sec and moving up into fourth place in the overall standings. Giniel and navigator Alex initially looked on course for a solid result on Stage 4, but Giniel suffered from neck pains and had to reduce speed in the rough sections. They also lost time towards the end of the stage due to a navigational error to finish 15th. Shameer and navigator Dennis recorded a solid performance on Stage 4 despite starting down the order, and in the dust of trucks and slower competitors. The pair lost some time due to a navigational error near the end of the stage to improve to 43rd in the overall standings.
Stage 5, Riyadh – Al Qaisumah (456 kilometres)
Opening the route once again on Stage 5, Nasser and Mathieu completed the 456-kilometre Riyadh to Al Qaisumah stage fourth fastest. The pair were able to limit their time loss to the leader, remaining in second position overall, 6min 11sec from the lead. Giniel, together with navigator Alex, mounted an impressive comeback after several challenging days to win Stage 5. Giniel and Alex were the 22nd car into the stage and made the most of this road position to win the stage by nearly a minute, leapfrogging from 22nd to 12th in the overall standings. Henk and Brett, who impressed on Stages 3 and 4, suffered an accident at the 19-kilometre mark after striking a ditch which sent their Hilux flipping end-over-end. Both were able to exit their Hilux, which came to rest on its side, unaided, and did not suffer serious injuries. After an initial medical check by the Dakar 2021 medical team, Henk was transported to Riyadh for further medical attention for his shoulder. As a result, the crew of no. 332 retired from Dakar 2021, bringing an end to the fairy tale debut for the young driver. Stage 5 also saw Shameer and Dennis record another solid stage, even though they started down the order again which placed them in the dust of other competitors. They finished as the 28th car on the stage and improved their overall position from 43rd place to 38th, despite suffering two punctures and dealing with limited engine power that hampered their progress in the dunes.
Stage 6, Al Qaisumah – Ha’il (347 kilometres)
The sixth stage brought the rally from the town of Al Qaisumah to the city of Ha’il via a timed section that was shortened to 347 kilometres to accommodate late arriving competitors from the previous stage. Nasser and navigator Mathieu, the leading Toyota Hilux in the overall standings, finished the stage in third place, and retained their second position overall, slightly reducing their gap to the lead to 5min 53sec. Giniel and Alex opened the road after their win on Stage 5, but lost 22min 20sec due to continued pain Giniel is experiencing with his neck as well as two punctures. Despite this, the pair moved up into top 10 in the overall standings. Stage 6 brought another solid result for Shameer and Dennis, who finished in 16th on the stage, and moved to 32nd in the overall standings.
Stage 7, Hai’il – Sakaka (453 kilometres)
Following the traditional Dakar mid-point Rest Day, Nasser and Mathieu took a cautious approach to the first part of the critical Marathon Stage which saw the 2019 winners concede just two minutes on Stage 7. The stage was contested over a timed section of 453-kilometres between Ha’il with Sakaka, and the pair trailed the leader by just under eight minutes in the overall standings after the stern test. Four punctures caused Giniel and Alex to lose 48min and 12sec as they had to wait for a spare tyre from a fellow Toyota Hilux crew. The pair were forced to start the following day’s 375-kilometre Stage 8 from Sakaka to Neom, expected to be made up of sandy and stony tracks, using old tyres and will also have to complete any maintenance or repairs to their Toyota Hilux themselves, as outside assistance from the technical crews is forbidden during the Marathon Stage. Shameer and Dennis continued their run of solid results, suffering a single puncture and posting the 15th-fastest time on the stage, only 38min 17sec behind stage winner Yazeed Al Rajhi, also in a Toyota Hilux. Shameer and Dennis moved into 31st position as a result.
Stage 8, Sakaka – Neom (375 kilometres)
Nasser and Mathieu opened the taps to win their fourth stage at Dakar 2021 on Stage 8. They initially traded places with their rivals but pulled ahead to reduce the lead gap to under five minutes after a gruelling Marathon Stage between Stages 7 and 8, which covered 828 competitive kilometres over varied terrain including sandy tracks and rocky traverses. Four more punctures for Giniel and Alex negated any chance of a competitive stage time. They finished Stage 8 in 19th, and was ninth in the overall standings. The pair had suffered 18 punctures over the course of the rally with four stages to go. Stage 8 brought another clean run for Shameer and Dennis, who came through the timed section puncture-free in their first Top 10 finish of the race. They finished seventh on the stage and moved up into 28th in the overall standings after a series of solid stage results.
Stage 9, Neom – Neom (465 kilometres)
Stage 9 of Dakar 2021 saw Toyota Gazoo Racing’s leading crew, Nasser and Mathieu, lose ground to the overall race leader over the course of a 465-kilometre long stage that started and finished at Neom on the Red Sea coast. Two punctures early in the stage forced Nasser and Mathieu to be cautious, surrendering 12 minutes to the overall lead to finish second on the stage. Multiple punctures also hampered the progress of Giniel and Alex, causing them to lose another 12min 19sec to the leaders. Despite recording the third fastest time on the stage, the pair remains in ninth in the overall standings after an extremely rough and rocky stage. Shameer and Dennis had only one puncture on Stage 9, but lost 32min 35sec to the lead due to navigational difficulties. The pair moved up to 24th in the overall standings after a series of strong stages.
Stage 10, Neom – Al Ula (342 kilometres)
Nasser and Mathieu delivered a solid performance on Stage 10 which brought Dakar 2021 from Neom into the canyons of Al Ula. The pair finished the stage second behind the Toyota Hilux of privateer, Yazeed Al Rajhi. Nasser and Mathieu had a clean run and gained 49sec over the rally leader. The dust of slower competitors held Giniel and Alex up in the early parts of the 342-kilometre stage. The Dakar veteran was sixth fastest on the stage and moved up to eighth in the overall standings. It was another good stage for Shameer and Dennis who finished 14th on the stage. The pair had to overtake a number of slower competitors and dealt with dust throughout the stage going into the penultimate Stage 11 which stretches between Al Ula and Yanbu in 23rd place overall. The competitive section had been shortened from 511 kilometres to 464 kilometres due to water erosion on the final parts of the stage after heavy rains in the area.
Stage 11, Al Ula – Yanbu (464 kilometres)
The leading Toyota Gazoo Racing crew of Nasser and Mathieu put on an impressive display of never-give-up spirit and skill to win the penultimate Stage 11 of Dakar 2021, the team’s sixth stage victory of the event. Despite suffering two punctures midway through the 464-kilometre stage from Al Ula to the coastal city of Yanbu, the pair overturned their three minute deficit to an almost two-minute advantage on the overall leader. Nasser and Mathieu headed into the final stage just over fifteen minutes behind the lead. Another two punctures held Giniel and Alex back on Stage 11, but the pair fought back despite struggling with the dust of the cars ahead of them to finish the stage in seventh. They remained in eighth place overall, but aimed to improve over the final 200-kilometre stage to Jeddah. Shameer and Dennis had three more punctures on the day’s stage. Despite the challenge, they continued to attack and finished in 18th place, continuing their march up the leader board to 21st in the overall standings.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “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, 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’m 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.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (No. 301): “This is a fantastic result for us, with the Toyota Hilux winning the four-wheel-drive category again. 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.”
Giniel de Villiers (No. 304): “Dakar 2021 was really a little disappointing for us. 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 give 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.”
Shameer Variawa (No. 330): “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Twelve days of racing and it has been up and down. 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.”
2021 Dakar Rally Stage 12 Results:
2nd No. 301 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +2min 13sec
10th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +7min 39sec
17th No. 330 Shameer Variawa/Dennis Murphy, +20min 00sec
2021 Dakar Rally Overall Results After Stage 12:
2nd No. 301 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +13min 51sec
8th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +3hr 57min 39sec
21st No. 330 Shameer Variawa/Dennis Murphy, +8hr 42min 39sec