Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel finished this year’s Dakar Rally in second place overall in their Toyota Hilux, after completing the final 200-kilometre-long stage from Yanbu to Jeddah today (Friday 15 January). The 2021 Dakar Rally results show that the pair trailed rally winner Stéphane Peterhansel by 13min 51sec after twelve competitive stages with a total timed race distance of 4400 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 several 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.
Read on for the full detail of how the 2021 Dakar Rally developed for the Toyota Gazoo Racing crews.
Prologue, Jeddah (11km)
The rally started on 2 January with a short Prologue stage on the outskirts of Jeddah to determine starting positions. Nasser and Mathieu placed their Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux in the best possible start position for Stage 1 by 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 18th, while teammates Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy came in 26th.
Stage 1, Jeddah – Bisha (277km)
Prologue winners Nasser and Mathieu found it tough to be the first car opening the route and lost 12min 34sec to the leaders, completing the first day in 10th place. Giniel and Alex were the best-performing TGR crew and finished eighth despite suffering three punctures that cost them valuable time. Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings lost 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 12th.
Stage 2, Bisha – Wadi Ad-Dawasir (457km)
Nasser and Mathieu, winners of Dakar 2019, recorded their first stage win of the 2021 event. The strong result propelled them into third position in the overall standings, 9min 14sec off the lead. Giniel and Alex lost more than 45 minutes due to navigational difficulties. To make matters worse, the pair were penalised for missing a waypoint and ended in 23rd overall after Stage 2. Henk and Brett finished 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 more than two hours after getting severely stuck in soft dunes.
Stage 3, Wadi Ad-Dawasir – Wadi Ad-Dawasir (403km)
The 2021 Dakar Rally results continued to go Toyota’s way as Nasser and Mathieu recorded their second consecutive stage win, powering 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. Henk and Brett drove a perfect stage to record the second fastest time. The impressive performance rocketed the pair to seventh position overall as the leading rookie crew. 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, 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 (337km)
Stage 4 brought a third consecutive stage win for Nasser and Mathieu after they beat their closest competitor by 11 seconds. The pair reduced their gap to the lead to under five minutes despite their position as pathfinder at the head of the field. Henk and Brett showed maturity and skill to finish third on the stage, moving up into fourth place in the overall standings. Giniel and navigator Alex initially looked on course for a solid result, 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. Shameer and navigator Dennis recorded a solid performance on Stage 4 despite starting down the order and improved to 43rd in the overall standings.
Stage 5, Riyadh – Al Qaisumah (456km)
Opening the route once again, 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. They were the 22nd crew into the stage and made the most of this road position to win the stage by nearly a minute, leapfrogging from 22nd to 12th overall. Henk and Brett suffered an accident at the 19-kilometre mark after striking a ditch which sent their Hilux flipping end-over-end. They were not seriously injured, although Henk was transported to Riyadh for further medical attention for his shoulder. They would play no further part in the event. Shameer and Dennis recorded another solid 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 (347km)
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 discomfort Giniel was 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 and the 2019 winners conceded just two minutes to the leaders on Stage 7. Four punctures caused Giniel and Alex to lose 48min 12sec as they had to wait for a spare tyre from a fellow Toyota Hilux crew. Shameer and Dennis continued their run of solid results, 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 won their fourth stage and reduced the lead gap to under five minutes. Four more punctures for Giniel and Alex negated any chance of a competitive stage time. They finished 19th, leaving them ninth in the overall standings. 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.
Stage 9, Neom – Neom (465 kilometres)
This stage proved to be a pivotal to the 2021 Dakar Rally results. Nasser and Mathieu lost ground to the overall race leader. Two punctures early in the stage forced them to drive more cautiously and they surrendered 12 minutes to the overall lead. Multiple punctures also hampered the progress of Giniel and Alex, causing them to lose another 12min 19sec to the leaders. The pair remained 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 due to navigational difficulties. The pair moved up to 24th in the overall standings.
Stage 10, Neom – Al Ula (342km)
Nasser and Mathieu delivered a solid performance and finished the stage second behind the Toyota Hilux of privateer competitor Yazeed Al Rajhi. They 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, but the Dakar veteran was sixth fastest on the stage and moved up to eighth overall. It was another good stage for Shameer and Dennis who finished 14th on the stage, placing them 23rd overall.
Stage 11, Al Ula – Yanbu (464km)
Nasser and Mathieu put on an impressive display of never-give-up spirit and skill to win the penultimate stage 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 finished almost two-minute up on the overall event 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 and finished the stage in seventh. They remained in eighth overall. 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.
Team reflections on the 2021 Dakar Rally results
Glyn Hall, team principal said: “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.
The race brought the joys of many stage wins.
“For us, this year’s race brought 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.”
Selected 2021 Dakar Rally results after Stage 12:
2nd Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Hilux, No. 301) +13min 51sec
8th Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro (Toyota Hilux, No. 304) +3hr 57min 39sec
21st Shameer Variawa/Dennis Murphy ((Toyota Hilux, No. 330) +8hr 42min 39sec