Team Toyota Gazoo Racing on disappointing last stage
The recently concluded Qatar Rally turned into a huge disappointment for the South African Toyota Gazoo Racing teams. Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel led the race until the very last stage in their South African-built Toyota Hilux, before being forced to retire due to a problem with the vehicle’s dry sump system.
“It was a great event for us, right up to the final stage,” said Al Attiyah from the Qatari city of Doha. “We were racing at an excellent pace on stage five, but then we had a problem and had to stop.”
As a matter of fact, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew were more than 12 minutes up on the second-placed crew of Jakub Przygonski and Tom Consoul (Mini) at the 140km-mark and were looking set to take their fourth consecutive victory in Qatar.
“Our Toyota Hilux is usually extremely reliable. We didn’t foresee this problem at all,” said a disappointed Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal, Glyn Hall, after the race. “Nasser and Mathieu had worked hard for this victory in difficult conditions. It was very disappointing for them not to reap their just reward.”
The Toyota Gazoo Racing crews had been the pick of the bunch from the get-go, with Al Attiyah and Baumel winning every stage of the event except for the last one.
Team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Robert Howie, in an identical Toyota Hilux, posted the second-fastest time on the opening stage, but had to retire from the race after Howie injured his back in a hard landing on stage two. “In terms of the overall results, things certainly didn’t go our way,” said Hall. “But as much as we came here to win, we also came to test and prepare for Dakar 2019, which is our main goal.”
The team completed two full days of testing in the desert prior to the race and continued testing throughout the event.
Both crews were very positive after the test session and felt that the team had made important strides in the development of the latest Toyota Hilux.
Injured co-driver Robert Howie has been released from hospital in Doha and made his way back to South Africa.
The former champion navigator will undergo further scans and treatment, with a view to returning to the cockpit as soon as possible. De Villiers and Howie’s car was flown back to South Africa for the Battlefield 400 in May.