– 4th on stage for Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy 
– 6th on stage for Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings 
– 14th on stage for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel 
– All three TGR crews maintain their positions in overall standings 

It was a day of consolidation for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at the 2023 Dakar Rally, as all three crews held steady in their positions in the overall rankings after Stage 7 of the 14-stage event. Fastest of the TGR crews on the stage near the town of Al Duwadimi was Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, who brought the GR DKR Hilux T1+ home in the fourth-fastest time. The stage was won by Yazeed Al Rajhi and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, in a privately entered Toyota Hilux T1+.

This was a significant improvement over their result from Stage 6, where they were plagued by multiple issues. In contrast, they reported a clean run on Stage 7, with their progress only hampered by the multitude of slower crews they had to pass, due to their 26th place starting position on the day. In the end, their deficit to the stage winner was only 11min 21sec, cementing their fourth position in the overall rankings.

The Dakar organisers were forced to adjust the order and length of the two stages near Al Duwadimi due to local flooding in the area, but even so, Stage 7 was a stern test of 333km. For Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings, it was an opportunity to consolidate their own position in the overall standings. They remain in second place, having finished the stage as the 6th-fastest crew on the day, after suffering a puncture early in the stage.

Stage 7 of Dakar 2023 also saw race leaders, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, hold onto their lead at the top of the overall standings. The defending champions did not take any chances during the stage, settling for the 14th position on the day. They relinquished 19min 12sec to the winners of the stage, but remain more than an hour ahead of the chasing pack, with half of this year’s stages behind them.

The end of Stage 7 featured a novel ‘remote service’, where the service crews for each team were allowed to work on the cars for a maximum of two hours, at a location some 240km to the north of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. This was necessitated by the change in the stages and schedule, with the race crews sleeping out near Al Duwadimi, before returning to the bivouac at Riyadh to reunite with the technical crews for the rest day.

Stage 8 follows next and features a liaison of 95km from the makeshift bivouac near Al Duwadimi, followed by a special stage of 346km. This will be followed by a long liaison of 383km, bringing the crews back to the bivouac at Riyadh for the rest day. Six stages will follow the rest day, with the second week of the rally moving into the so-called Empty Quarter in the south-eastern part of Saudi Arabia. The event is scheduled to finish on January 15th, in the coastal city of Dammam.

QUOTES:
Glyn Hall, TGR Dakar Team Principal: “I’m very pleased with our results on today’s stage. Giniel and Dennis did a sterling job from far back on the road; and the other two crews managed their pace perfectly. The key thing for us was to survive the day with as little damage as possible, as our service was restricted to two hours in a remote site, so dealing with any niggles could have been challenging. In the end, we had nothing more than preventative maintenance to do, in addition to our regular services, and I’m confident that our cars are ready for Stage 8.

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Our finishing position today isn’t on my mind at all, as we have a generous lead, and I’m not concerned about our stage times now. Tomorrow, we can attack a little bit again and regain the time, but it was important for us to finish today’s stage without any problems, which is exactly what we did.”

Giniel de Villiers: “It was a much better stage for us today than on the previous one, and we didn’t have to get out of the car once. We had to content with some dust mid-stage, as we passed what felt like 19 or 20 cars. We’re very happy with our result today and will be hoping for more of the same in the days to come.”

Henk Lategan: “Our stage didn’t start very well when we had a puncture in the second corner of the stage. But after that, we found a good pace until we caught up with the leading group, and we simply drove with them to the end of the stage. For us, it is important to keep the crews that are close to us in the standings in sight, which is exactly what we did today.”