- Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy are the fastest TGR Hilux, fourth on stage
- Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings sixth
- Overall rally leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel 14th
- All three crews maintain their positions in the overall standings
Saturday was a day of consolidation for Toyota Gazoo Racing on the 2023 Dakar Rally with all three crews holding their positions in the overall rankings after completing Stage 7 of the 14-stage event. Fastest of the TGR runners were Giniel de Villiers and his co-driver Dennis Murphy who brought their GR DKR Hilux T1+ home in the fourth fastest time. The stage was won by Yazeed Al Rajhi and Dirk von Zitzewitz in a privately entered Hilux.
The result was a significant improvement for de Villiers and Murphy, who were plagued by multiple issues in the previous stage. They reported a clean run on Stage 7, their progress only hampered by the many slower crews they had to pass because of the starting position of 26th. At the close, their deficit to the winner was only 1min 21sec, cementing their fourth position in the overall rankings.
The Dakar organisers were forced to adjust the order and length of the two stages near Al Duwadimi due to flooding in the area. Even so, Stage 7 was a stern 207-mile test. For Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings, it was an opportunity to consolidate their own position in the overall standings. They remain in second place, suffering a puncture early in the stage but finishing as the sixth-fastest crew.
Race leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel held onto their lead at the top of the overall standings. The defending champions did not take any chances during the stage, settling for the 14th position. They relinquished 19min 12sec to the stage winners, but remain more than an hour ahead of the chasing pack, with half of this year’s stages behind them.
The end of Stage 7 featured a novel ‘remote service’, where the service crews for each team were allowed to work on the cars for a maximum of two hours. This was necessitated by the change in the stages and schedule, with the race crews sleeping out near Al Duwadimi, before returning to the bivouac at Riyadh to reunite with the technical crews for the rest day.
Stage 8 follows next and features a liaison of 59 miles from the makeshift bivouac near Al Duwadimi, followed by a 215-mile special stage. This will be followed by a long liaison of 238 miles, bringing the crews back to the bivouac at Riyadh for Monday’s rest day. Six stages will follow the rest day, with the second week of the rally moving into the Empty Quarter in south-eastern Saudi Arabia. The event is scheduled to finish on 15 January in the coastal city of Dammam.
Glyn Hall, TGR Dakar Team Principal: “I’m very pleased with our results on today’s stage. Giniel and Dennis did a sterling job from far back on the road and the other two crews managed their pace perfectly. The key thing for us was to survive the day with as little damage as possible, as our service was restricted to two hours in a remote site, so dealing with any niggles could have been challenging. In the end, we had nothing more than preventative maintenance to do, in addition to our regular services, and I’m confident that our cars are ready for Stage 8.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Our finishing position today isn’t on my mind at all, as we have a generous lead, and I’m not concerned about our stage times now. Tomorrow, we can attack a little bit again and regain the time, but it was important for us to finish today’s stage without any problems, which is exactly what we did.”
Giniel de Villiers: “It was a much better stage for us today and we didn’t have to get out of the car once. We had to contend with some dust mid-stage, as we passed what felt like 19 or 20 cars. We’re very happy with our result today and will be hoping for more of the same in the days to come.”
Henk Lategan: “Our stage didn’t start very well when we had a puncture in the second corner. After that, we found a good pace until we caught up with the leading group, and we simply drove with them to the end of the stage. For us, it is important to keep the crews that are close to us in the standings in sight, which is exactly what we did today.”
For results, times and standings, please visit newsroom.toyota.eu; for further media assets, please visit www.TGR-DAM.com.