The penultimate stage of Dakar 2024 brought disappointment for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s leading crew of Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon. The Brazilian driver and his Spanish co-driver were hoping to retain their podium position over the closing stages of the event, but a series of problems put paid to their hopes of a solid result, relegating them to 9th in the overall standings. Earlier in the race, they celebrated their maiden stage win, yet motorsport is filled with highs and lows, and Stage 11 brought a low point for the GR DKR Hilux T1U crew.
Lucas and Armand started the stage solidly in third place overall, and had every hope of retaining this position to the finish of the event. However, first a broken damper, followed by a broken wishbone, all but halted their progress over the 11th stage, which stretched between the bivouac at Alula and the coastal city of Yanbu. Were it not for the assistance of their teammates, the TGR crew may well have been dealt an even crueller blow, but in the end, they dropped to 9th in the overall standings.
This result also dealt a heavy blow to their World Rally-Raid Championship aspirations, as they failed to score any points towards the championship on Stage 11 of the rally.
While Stage 11 brought a low point for Lucas and Armand, it brough a high for TGR’s rookie driver, Saood Variawa, and his co-driver, Francois Cazalet. The GR DKR Hilux EVO T1U pairing brought their car home in the 5th-fastest time, despite stopping multiple times to assist Lucas and Armand and also to deal with a puncture of their own. They lost 12min 37sec to the leaders on the stage, but cemented their overall position in 20th place in the process. Stage 11 was a stunning result for the youngster, who has shown exceptional pace whenever conditions allowed.
Next fastest for TGR on Stage 11 was another rookie Dakar driver, in the form of Guy Botterill, who is partnered with Brett Cummings for this year’s event. The pair had shown significant pace over parts of the rally, and in Stage 11 they set the 10th-fastest time, despite stopping for roughly 10min to assist Lucas and Armand. Had they simply powered on, they too may have recorded a Top 5 finish, but their camaraderie was exemplary, and the pair remain in 6th place in the overall standings, just 2hr 40min 31sec behind the leaders.
For Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, Stage 11 of the 2024 Dakar Rally brought more challenges. The pair also stopped with Lucas and Armand, and attempted to assist the stricken crew. They lost significant time in the process, relinquishing 39min 24sec to the stage winners in the process. Giniel and Dennis remain in 7th place overall, with just one stage remaining in the 2024 edition of the event.
TGR’s final pairing of Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz had been sidelined since early in the race, when damage to their engine forced the team to replace the twin-turbo V6 petrol engine in their car. This resulted in a massive penalty, which effectively dropped the pairing out of contention for the race. As such, they took on the mantle of ‘water carriers’ for the final stages of the rally, carrying spare parts and fluids for the cars ahead of them. This came into play during Stage 11, when they stopped with Lucas and Armand to donate spares and assist with repairs.
In the end, both Seth/Dennis and Lucas/Armand accrued massive time losses on Stage 11. While this did not really impact on Seth/Dennis’ results, it dealt a hard blow to Lucas and Armand, who were looking at a second place in the overall standings mid-way through the penultimate stage.
While Stage 11 was a tough one for TGR as a team, Toyota as a brand was well represented on the stage. Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq set the fastest time in their privately entered Toyota Hilux, while Guillaume de Mevius and Xavier Panseri went second fastest. Together with the works crews, a total of five Toyota Hiluxes attained Top 10 positions, underscoring the toughness and reliability of the car.
A single stage remains in Dakar 2024, but at 137km in length, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome of the rally. The stage, which will be run in the area to the northwest of the coastal Saudi city of Yanbu, will bring the rally to a finish, after 12 competitive stages that encompassed a large variety of terrain types.