The 41st edition of the Dakar Rally has come to a close. Taking place 100% in Peru, the rally provided 10 stages of endless dunes, soft sand, and rocks for the competitors. With 98 cars starting, just under half made it through the entire 5,000km trek.
The 2019 rally brought a number of victories for Toyota teams, including a historic first overall victory for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SOUTH AFRICA and #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah, the third of his career. Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body was triumphant for the sixth time in a row in the Production Category as #350 Christian Lavieille achieved victory.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA’s #510 Teruhito Sugawara was victorious in the 10-liter engine or smaller category for the 10th year in a row.
General Financing Team Pitlane’s #330 Benediktas Vanagas came just outside of the top 10, coming 11th overall.
FOJ Motorsport #352 Xavier Foj achieved second place in the Improved and non-lightweight Cross-Country Category.
Taking place entirely in the Peruvian sands, the 5,000km Dakar Rally 2019 was one to remember. Competitors faced 10 stages of non-stop mountainous sand dunes, massifs, hidden stones, and fesh-fesh, a super fine powder-like sand, a true test for the Toyota machines.
The rally began on January 7th in the Peruvian capital, Lima with competitors immediately being launched into the Ica Sand Dunes for their first taste of things to come. At the end of the first stage, all three TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SOUTH AFRICA (TGRSA) vehicles, #301 driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel, #302 by Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz and #309 by Bernhard Ten Brinke and Xavier Panseri, made it through the mixture of sands placing in the top 10. Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body’s (TLC) #349 driven by Akira Miura and Laurent Lichtleuchter and #350 driven by Christian Lavieille and Jean-Pierre Garcin also found initial success coming first and second in the Production Category. HINO TEAM SUGAWARA also did well in the first stage, with #510 Teruhito Sugawara and Katsumi Hamura enjoying their vastly upgraded truck while #517 Yoshimasa Sugawara and Ahito Sakurai were in their tried and tested truck from previous years.
With stage 2 as the rally began to head south down Peru the competitors faced another day of endless seas of sand. Even with the difficult dunes causing many vehicles to flip and get stuck, the TGRSA Hilux battled their way to the top 10, with TLC also taking up the first and second position in the Production Category. Sadly, for Dakar legend Yoshimasa Sugawara in Hino #517, stage 2 would be the end of his journey after being forced to retire.
With stage 3 and the landscape began to change, and for a brief respite, the landscape opened up into valleys. Any relief at the change was short-lived as although the colossal dunes had gone, fields of fesh-fesh now met the competitors. The powder-like sand obscured views, infiltrated machinery and caused general havoc. Stage 4 was the Marathon stage, where competitors are without technical support and any damage or repairs would have to be conducted by drivers and co-drivers with their own tools.
The variety of sands, red, yellow and white took their toll on many of the vehicles in the race. By the mid-point of the rally, only 69 cars remained, the lowest amount since 2007. Even with the legendarily tough race getting tougher, only 6 Toyotas were forced to retire, their toughness was truly shining through.
At the halfway mark, TGRSA’s #301 was in full control in first overall. TLC cars #349 and #350 remained in the first and second position in the Production Category. Hino seemed to be continuing their dominance on the truck’s 10-Liter Engine or Smaller Category in first place.
The second half of the took the competitors northwards, back to where they began, Lima. The route being a large loop meant that the race would be returning to some areas already raced. While the scenery may have been familiar, this meant no letup in the difficulty of the race, especially as stage 6 took to the Tanaka dunes, the toughest in the rally. TGRSA’s #301 Nasser proved his mettle, coming second to stay in first place overall.
The race continued north back to Lima with no letup, each day was filled with physically demanding and difficult to navigate dunes, massifs, and soft sand. Unfortunately, stage 8 was the end for TGRSA #309 Bernhard Ten Brinke and Xavier Panseri who had to retire due to insurmountable damage from the dunes.
For TGRSA, the penultimate stage 9 was all about keeping #301 Nasser’s lead. #302’s Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz kept close to #301 just in case they needed help. The strategy paid off with #301 coming in first and #302 coming in third for the stage.
The rally ended with a short 112km sprint towards Lima, however, even a short stage can provide drama in the fickle Dakar Rally. Luckily for the Toyota teams who had full trust in their vehicles, no such drama came about on the last day. TGRSA’s #302 started just under an hour before leading car #301 but pulled aside on a dune, and prepared for #301 to arrive. Once #301 got going the strategy was to race calm and calculated in order to ensure victory.
In the end, it was a historic first overall victory for Toyota in the Dakar Rally.
#301 raced with full confidence in their Hilux and finished with minimal damage.
Even with #302’s Giniel De Villiers aiding #301 for a lot of the rally, he still managed stay in the top 10, a feat he has managed in 14 of the past 15 rallies.
TLC continued their dominance in the Production Category, with a victory for the 6th year in a row.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA managed an amazing 10th victory in a row in the truck’s 10-Liter Engine or Smaller Category, coming in first, while coming 9th overall in the trucks.
The 100% Peruvian rally will go down as one of the toughest on record, with under half of the cars that started finishing the rally. With a year of multiple victories combined with the fact that of the 27 Toyotas that started the rally, 16 of them finished, demonstrating that even in the harshest of conditions, their quality, durability, and reliability is there for all to see.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SOUTH AFRICA
Team principal Glyn Hall
Winning the Dakar is never easy – there are a lot of people trying. This year’s race was no exception, and brought a rollercoaster of emotions and results for the team. This victory was long overdue it feels amazing to finally win.
Driver: Nasser Al-Attiyah
We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.
Driver: Giniel De Villiers
Obviously, we came here to try to win the race, but once that dream ended, we were happy to support Nasser and Matthieu’s effort. If we couldn’t win it ourselves, the next best thing was for one of our teammates to take the victory, and I am overjoyed at the final result.
Team Land Cruiser TOYOTA AUTO BODY
Driver: Akira Miura
I am very pleased that we were able to capture our 6th consecutive victory and a 1-2 finish in the Peruvian Dakar Rally.
Every day the TLC mechanics made sure that our Land Cruisers were in their highest state as soon as we got back to camp, this really helped the two cars in our teams to go for the goal. I really believed in my car which gave me the ability to grasp the steering well.
Thank you to all of the fans for your support, it was an amazing rally.
Driver: Christian Lavieille
I feel amazing that we were able to both finish with a 1-2 finish and also get our 6th consecutive win in the Production Category. Last year I retired early out of the Rally, and I have used that feeling of regret to make it through this year of training. This year’s rally was incredibly difficult, we got stuck many times and had many punctures but with our two cars working together with our mechanics providing us with perfect maintenance. This is an amazing team and I am incredibly grateful to all of the fans that supported us.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA
Driver: Teruhito Sugawara
This year we drove a new model and I had to constantly fight those ranked higher with larger engines. In the Dakar Rally, I am sure that even if the course is hard, I have to keep going until the very end. If I want to get to the top, I have to take risks.