Nasser al Attiyah & Glyn Hall open up on Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Dakar 2021 chances
When three-times Dakar Rally winner Nasser al Attiyah talks of ‘Mister Glyn’, the tone of his voice further reflects his patent respect for his Gazoo Toyota Racing team boss. It emphasises that title he never fails to mention, as a sign of respect. Al Attiyah and Hall were addressing international media via Zoom in the build-up to Dakar 2021. There’s a clear spring in their virtual step as the countdown to the Saudi epic continues.
“We were unlucky last year,” Attiyah confessed. “We had the better car, the team is the strongest and our pace was good. But we ended up a very close second.”
WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE
“Yeah, we should have won last year,” Hall added “If you take the extra time we lost to punctures away, we were quicker on the road.” But that’s racing — you can’t cry over spilled milk and that’s water under the bridge. Far from sleeping however, the Proudly South African Toyota team has been hard at work since this year’s race. Hall believes his team has addressed the issues that hobbled it on Dakar’s first visit to Saudi Arabia.
“We have concentrated on developing the Hilux and we have done a lot of testing on tyres locally,” ‘Mr Glyn’ pointed out. “2020 was our first visit to Saudi Arabia, so with that hindsight, we can prepare better. And we have done that. “Fortunately, how we operate has allowed us to doge the lockdown to a greater extent and we have managed to get what we needed to, done.”
Dakar however confirmed Wednesday that the 2021 race will run to a new 180 km/h maximum speed limit. Organisers have also promised a mostly new, more technical, more dune-rich route and the route will be delivered on a tablet, ten minutes before the start each day. “That plays into our hands in two ways,” Al Attiyah explained.
“We are stronger in the technical sections and I love the dunes. Mr Glyn has also prepared us a new Hilux that is built exactly for these conditions and we have new tyres too, so we should be very competitive. The tablet also levels the playing field and allows the navigators to sleep a bit more. And the new route elements are interesting – that is both good and bad!
“180KM/H DAKAR LIMIT SUITS US” — HALL
“The 180 km/h maximum speed also suits us,” Hall added. “Our 4×2 buggy rivals had an advantage on the really fast stuff, so we welcome the change. We have also spent time re-tuning our V8 engine to best suit the new top end limit and put a lot of effort into the suspension. Most of all we’ve worked very hard on the tyres. “We have also tested extensively with Giniel de Villiers in the desert and we are excited for Nasser to experience the changes shortly — we trust he will be impressed.”
“It would be good if all the cars were 4x4s — then we’d have a far tighter race,” Nasser added. “But these changes are a good step in the right direction.”
Asked who his biggest Dakar 2021 competition would be, Al Attiyah said the Minis. “Carlos (Sainz) won last year and Stefan (Peterhansel) is a Dakar expert. Mini also has both buggies and 4x4s racing, which covers all aspects. I also look forward to race against the new Prodrive team. They have huge experience and with Sebastien Loeb and Nani Roma driving, we cannot ignore them — even in their first year.
“My teammates are also very strong — Giniel is always a factor. I am really excited to have double South African champion Henk Lategan, who is an exciting newcomer at the Dakar, and Shammer Variyawa in the team. I am really looking forward to working together with them.
“MR GLYN NEVER SAYS NO” — NASSER
“I am hugely appreciative for all that Mr. Glyn has done and look forward to racing again with him at the Dakar. He is always looking for ways to improve the car and he never says no! “I also look forward to attacking Dakar with my navigator and my friend Mathieu Baumel. We have a great mutual respect and we are a great team.”
“We have been working on developing new blood and are excited to have Henk and Brett Cummings racing as Dakar rookies this year,” Glyn Hall explained his rationale in appointing former Dakar Malle Moto no-assistance motorcycle runner-up Cummings as Lategan]s navigator two years back. “Henk has natural pace and Brett knows what it takes to take on the desert on his own. They are a most exciting Dakar prospect.
“There’s still much to do before the start, but we have worked hard as a team to give Nasser and the rest of the team the best possible car to win,” Hall concluded.
2021 is a big year for Nasser Al Attiyah, who is chasing his fourth and Toyota’s second Dakar victory, before representing Qatar in the Tokyo Olympics later on. It will be the Olympic shooter’s seventh games and he is intent to come home from Japan with gold too…
But first it’s the Dakar, which starts on 3 January and runs over 5000 km through the Arabian Desert in twelve days. One thing is for sure — it seems the Proudly South African Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux team is ready for action. Bring it on!