- Final stage win for Nasser and Mathieu
- Overall race victory at Desafio Ruta 40
- Co-driver’s and Manufacturers’ titles secured in W2RC
- Flawless performance by GR DKR Hilux T1+ and its crew
The final stage of the 2023 Desafio Ruta 40 saw TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel secure their fourth stage win of the race – and with it the overall victory for Round 4 of the 2023 World Rally-Raid Champiopnship (W2RC). The TGR crew wrapped up the final stage in a time of 2hr 34min 04sec, just 1min 03sec ahead of Sebastian Halpern, and 5min 5sec clear of Eugenio Amos and Paolo Ceci, in their privately entered Toyota Hilux T1+.
The final stage was run over a timed distance of 258km, with liaisons totalling 305km bringing the total distance for the day to 563km. The route started at the bivouac in Belén, and saw the teams race towards the Argentine city of Salta. Nasser and Mathieu were again the first car on the road, but despite having to find the route, the TGR crew managed to bring their Dakar-Winning GR DKR Hilux T1+ home in first place.
At the same time, privateer Toyota driver Yazeed Al Rahji, who is Nasser’s closest competitor in the W2RC standings, made a navigational error mid-stage. He became stuck in a ditch, and may well have failed to complete the stage, were it not for the kind assistance of teammate Juan Yacopini, in a similar Toyota Hilux T1+. Yacopini held a slender lead over Yazeed in the overall standings going into the final stage, but even so the young Argentine driver stopped to assist his Saudi teammate in a show of camaraderie and solidarity, which is a hallmark of many Toyota crews.
In the end, Nasser and Mathieu’s four stage wins saw them home in a total time of 15hr 10min 03sec, giving them a buffer of 22min 03sec over Yacopini in the final standings. Yazeed and co-driver Timo Gottschalk rounded out the podium, 30min 27sec behind the TGR crew. Notably, fourth place also belonged to a Toyota Hilux T1+ crew, in the form of Amos and Ceci.
The victory in Argentina netted Nasser and Mathieu 53 points towards their W2RC titles, with 30 points awarded for the race win; 5 points each for the four stage victories; and a further 3 points for their third place on Stage 2. This was enough to secure the co-drivers’ title for Mathieu, and the manufacturers’ title for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. The overall drivers’ title is still undecided, though Nasser holds a lead of 51 points over Yazeed in the standings. These points are, however, subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.
With Round 4 of the 2023 W2RC season behind them, just the final round of the year remains. The Rally of Morocco is scheduled for 12-18 October this year, and serves as the traditional pre-Dakar test session for all the major teams. With the co-driver and manufacturers’ titles already sewn up, TGR will be focusing on securing Nasser’s second consecutive W2RC title, in addition to testing and finalising the GR DKR Hilux T1+ for next year’s Dakar Rally.
Alain Dujardyn, TGR W2RC Team Principal: “The perfect end to a fantastic week of racing here in Argentina. Overall, we have every reason to be pleased with Nasser and Mathieu winning the race, and our Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+ again showing its strength. The fans here were amazingly enthusiastic, and we appreciate the support. I would also like to congratulate Juan Cruz Yacopini on his fantastic second place overall, achieved in front of his home crowd. In terms of the W2RC, we are happy to have already won the championships for co-driver and manufacturer, with just the driver title to be concluded in Morocco next month.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “This was a really tough but exciting race. We had some issues with flat tyres on one of the stages, and I struggled to find a comfortable rear suspension setup early in the race. Even so, we had a great time here in South America, and I am very happy to add another victory to our list. The car was great; Mathieu did a good job; and now I am closer than ever to a second driver’s title in the W2RC.”
Mathieu Baumel: “Winning a second consecutive co-driver’s title in the W2RC is a proud moment for me. The Desafio Ruta 40 was a stern test, and winning the title here feels extr special, especially after all the years of racing in South America as part of the Dakar Rally. The fans were great, and I am ecstatic to leave Argentina as the W2RC champion co-driver for 2023.”