Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel delivered another outstanding drive in the dunes of the United Arab Emirates to win the 30th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Falling just short of a clean sweep of stage wins in their racing Toyota Hilux, they posted a third-place finish on the fifth and final day, which was more than enough to see them secure the title for the first time since 2016. In doing so, they have tightened their grip on the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies standings.
Al-Attiyan and Baumel opened the road with a commanding 23min 48sec lead over the fellow Toyota Hilux outfit of Lucio Alvarez and Armand Monleon. Their advantage was such that it allowed the pair to take things cautiously as they headed back to the epicentre of Abu Dhabi across the 135.5-mile route.
Quickest at waypoint one, the team then suffered a puncture which allowed Alvarez and Monleon to gain some ground. Al-Attiyah took things easier from thereon in, with the finish line and the title fast approaching.
The Qatari and his French co-driver came home safely in a time of 2hr 36min 50sec – just under three minutes behind stage winners Alvarez and Monleon. Having captured comprehensive wins in the first four stages, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team cruised to an emphatic victory in the overall standings. They completed the five-stage epic in a total time of 17hr 45 min 58 sec which proved to be just over 21 minutes faster than Alvarez and Monleon, who were their closest challengers. The triumph comes hot on the heels of their success in Morocco, where they again reigned supreme.
The team are now the overwhelming favourites to secure the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies title. They lead the standings on 92.5 points, 28 clear of second-placed Alvarez and Monleon, with only the Hail International Rally remaining.
This event will take place from 6-11 December in Saudi Arabia, a country that will host its third Dakar Rally early next year.
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel Toyota Hilux (TGR) 17hr 45min 58sec
2. Lucio Alvarez/Armand Monleon Toyota Hilux (Overdrive) +21min 12sec
3. Denis Krotov/Konstantin Zhiltsov MINI +1hr 14min 23sec
4. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr Toyota Hilux (Overdrive) +1hr 16min 42sec
5. Sebastien Halpern/Bernardo Graue MINI +1hr 42min 34sec
Glyn Hall, Team Principal:
“Nasser and Mathieu won in Morocco and then captured four of the five stages in Abu Dhabi. It’s difficult to improve on that. The Hilux is fantastically reliable and that makes all the difference when you’re aiming to win a World Cup. What a tremendous team effort.”
“We weren’t really pushing hard, and after suffering a flat tyre, we decided to be far more cautious, and stayed with Alvarez until the finish. I’m ecstatic to have won this rally, which we controlled from the beginning. We still need to win the World Cup, so Hail awaits.”
“The sparring with Alvarez was entertaining and made for an exciting end to a lovely rally. We are thrilled with the win. Now we need to go to Hail and get some points to win the World Cup, while it will provide us with some terrific training for the Dakar Rally.”