TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings recorded the second-fastest time on Stage 4 of the 5-stage Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in their GR DKR Hilux T1+. They finished the penultimate stage just 6min 59sec behind the eventual winners, but remain out of contention in the overall standings following their withdrawal from the second stage of the race due to a boost-related issue.
“Overall, it was a tricky stage. Things started off very fast and flowing, with blind crests and dunes,” said Lategan after the stage. “The start was actually delayed by two hours because of mist, so it was a bit dangerous in the beginning. And then when it got going, it was fast flowing stuff near the start, with really dangerous drops making things very difficult. We couldn’t find a rhythm really early on and the confidence just wasn’t there. In one or two places, we had to take different routes to get across the big, soft dunes. Towards the end we started to get a little bit of a rhythm, but stayed on the safe, careful side, so it was a good stage to learn from.”
Stage 4, the penultimate test of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, was the longest of the event, at 308km. There were also two short liaisons joining the stage to the bivouac at Qasr Al Sarab, but the real test lay in the multiple dunes and sandy tracks of the timed section.
Henk and Brett reported no technical difficulties with their GR DKR Hilux T1+ throughout the stage, and managed a fast pace despite the tricky terrain. With that said, Henk and Brett are mainly taking part in this race in order to gain experience in some of the toughest dunes in the world, and as such the pair felt that they aren’t at full pace just yet.
With that said, they found it difficult to establish a rhythm early in the stage, possibly due to a start that was delayed by misty weather, grounding the helicopters and forcing the race organisers to wait for better conditions. The TGR crew battled on through the early parts of the stage, eventually settling into a good pace, and bringing their car to the finish without incident.
Given the time lost due to their earlier withdrawal, Henk and Brett are in 31st position overall. Thus, they remain out of contention for an overall podium position but will continue to learn during the final stage of the event.
Glyn Hall, TGRSA Team Principal, concluded: “It was a difficult stage for Henk in the beginning, but he got settled in despite a lot of changing conditions. In the end, he recorded a brilliant second place – just what he needed to do to get the important kilometres to learn some of the most difficult dunes in the world. So yeah, he did a great job and gaining experience all the way, which is what he is in Abu Dhabi for.”
The fifth and final stage of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge stretches between the Qasr Al Sarab bivouac and Abu Dhabi city. There are liaisons of 29km and 135km before and after the special, which comprises 206km of dunes and sandy tracks. As with Stage 4, the terrain will be tricky, with very soft sand.