Had they not withdrawn from Stage 2 of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge due to a boost-related issue, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings may well have found themselves in contention for overall victory – especially given their stage win on the final test of the 5-stage event. Even so, the crew gained a lot of experience in Abu Dhabi, which is certain to assist them in their future races.

“I certainly learnt a lot this week,” said Lategan after the race. “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge truly is a tough event, with many pitfalls that can catch you out without any notice. We were unfortunate to have had to withdraw from Stage 2 of the event, otherwise the results may well have looked different. Even so, we’ve recorded a number of podium finishes in the other stages, and I’m elated about our stage win in today’s final stage of the event.”

The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge stretched between the Qasr Al Sarab bivouac and Abu Dhabi city. There were liaisons of 29km and 135km before and after the special, but it was the timed section that saw the GR DKR Hilux T1+ crew shine. The TGR crew needed only 2hr 36min 11sec to complete the stage, giving them a winning margin of 2min 2sec over the next-fastest crew.

It was a rollercoaster week for the South Africans, who opened their account with a third place on Stage 1. An unfortunate issue related to the turbo boost of their car forced them to withdraw from Stage 2 of the event, taking them out of contention in the overall standings. They bounced back in Stage 3 with another third place, before going one better to secure second place in Stage 4. This was followed up with a win on the final stage of the event.

“Henk and Brett have proven themselves as tough competitors in the past, but winning the final stage of this tough race underlines their abilities,” said TGRSA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “I’m also encouraged by the near-faultless performance of our GR DKR Hilux T1+, with the boost-related issue that hampered Henk and Brett’s progress in Stage 2, the only blot on its otherwise perfect record this week.”

Teammates and defending World Rally-Raid Champions, Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, started the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on charge. They won the Prologue, and followed this up with a stunning win on the opening stage of the event. They added more wins on Stages 2 and 3, before a rollover near the end of Stage 4 – which they had been leading up until that point – brought their charge to a halt. This was a bitter blow for the crew, but they will be back to continue the defense of their title at Round 3 of the 2023 W2RC.

Round 3 is scheduled for 22 to 28 April, at the Sonora Rally in Mexico. This will be followed by the Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina, and the season-closing Rally of Morocco, which will take place in October this year. Nasser and Mathieu won both the Dakar Rally and the W2RC title in 2022, and will be hoping to replicate their success in 2023, after already claiming victory at this year’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.