Toyota South Africa: DAKAR STEADY START FOR TGR AS SETH SHINES

TGR Dakar
  • 2nd-fastest time for Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz
  • Cautious approach by most of team
  • Navigational mistake hampers Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy

Dakar 2024 saw its first action on Friday, January 5th, with a short Prologue of 28km. While the time posted during the Prologue doesn’t count towards the overall race times in the rally, the results of the Prologue is used to determine the starting positions for Stage one.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz set the fastest time of the five TGR crews, posting the second-fastest time on the day. The pair were just 23sec off the pace set by the eventual winners of the Prologue, and 15sec clear of the car behind them. This means their final starting position will be determined by a draw prior to Stage one, but they are sure to be in a strong attacking position.

Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon took a more cautious approach to the Prologue, opting to aim for a slot just outside the Top 10, as the tenth-fastest car on the Prologue was sure to have to open the road for Stage one. They managed to go 15th-fastest, setting them up perfectly for the opening test on January 6th.

There was disappointment for TGR stalwarts Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy, as the pair selected the wrong route when entering a canyon, and lost more than three minutes as a result. While the time loss in itself is of no consequence, they will have to start the race well down the order in 44th place, which will place them among many slower competitors and race trucks – a tough test for the experienced GR Hilux EVO T1U crew.

TGR’s two rookie crews posted solid times, despite starting the Prologue down the order. Saood Variawa and co-driver Francois Cazalet were 23rd, just 1min 41sec behind the leaders; while Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings were 33rd, 2min 15sec adrift.

With the Prologue done, the race will start in earnest, with Stage one following on Saturday, January 6th. The stage will start with a liaison of 84km, before a timed section of 414km. A final liaison of 46km will bring the crews to the bivouac at Al Henakiyah. Dakar 2024 consists of 12 stages, with the event drawing to a close on January 19th, in the coastal city of Yanbu.

QUOTES:

Shameer Variawa, SVR Team Principal: “It feels good to finally be racing, even though the Prologue isn’t really part of the race. Even so, the Prologue has certainly helped to settle everyone’s nerves, and it was great to see our new GR Hilux EVOs in competition for the first time.”

Seth Quintero: “Yeah, that was an amazing time. I had a lot of anticipation, a lot of doubts in my own head that I didn’t know if I was just a T3 guy or what I was. I’d never really raced against the best and now we’re here racing against the best. And yeah, today couldn’t have gone any better: second place. It’s an unreal feeling. I mean, I’ve been watching these guys for so long and then they’ve been doing this for basically as long as I’ve been alive. So, to contend with them for a win and to start where we’re starting tomorrow is very welcoming.”

Lucas Moraes: “Finally, finally kicked this thing off and a great Prologue. Very nice to drive; very fast tempo. There was some tricky navigation in a specific part, but Armand managed to find our way very quickly. We are very happy with the pace that we were putting until that point, and we feel we’ve set a good time.”

Saood Variawa: “I mean the stage was awesome, the Prologue. We had a decent run. The first 5km I took it easy at a pace basically 60-70% just to see how I feel and how the navigation is and stuff like that. Obviously, I haven’t used this type of navigation, so it was a bit difficult to get to switch and understand. But once we got used to it, we got going and it felt really good. We did a decent time and I’m happy to start where we are. At least we’ll have some tracks tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes.”

Guy Botterill: “It went quite well. We actually enjoyed it. We knew we were  in a little bit of trouble with our road position, so we caught the car in front of us fairly quickly. There was a bit of a tricky canyon, left or right, and the GPS was in the middle. So, we followed what we thought was the GPS, but it was the wrong way. Then we had to turn around and come back again. But I think all in all, it was a good stage. I enjoyed it. I think it settled the nerves a little bit, and we lost a reasonable amount of time there.”

Giniel de Villiers: “We unfortunately made a navigational error which was compounded by Nani coming past us, and we had to drop back another 45 seconds, so we’re just a little bit too far back. The race hasn’t started yet, so we keep our spirits high and we’ll try best tomorrow.”

DAKAR 2024 – PROLOGUE

1. #207 M. Ekstrom / E. Berg (Team Audi Sport)16’ 30”
2. #216 S. Quintero / D. Zenz(Toyota GAZOO Racing)+00’23”
3. #203 S. Loeb / F. Lurquin(Bahrain Raid Xtreme)+00’38”
4. #242 M. Baumgart / K. Cincea(X Rally Team)+00’38”
5. #245 C. Baumgart / A. Andereottia(X Rally Team)+00’44”
6. #217 K. Hołowczyca / L. Kurzeją(X-Raid JCW Team)+00’44”
7. #202 S. Peterhansel / E. Boulanger(Team Audi Sport)+00’45”
8. #229 L. Baud / L. Baud(Overdrive Racing)+00’47”
9. #208 M. Prokop / V. Chytka(Orlen Jipocar Team)+00’49”
10. #219 B. Baragwanath / L. Cremer(Century Racing Factory)+00’55”
15. #206 L. Moraes / A. Monleon(Toyota GAZOO Racing)+01’15”
23. #226 S. Variawa / F. Cazalet(Toyota GAZOO Racing)+01’41”
33. #243 G. Botterill / B. Cummings(Toyota GAZOO Racing)+02’15”
44. #209 G. De Villiers / D. Murphy(Toyota GAZOO Racing)+03’13”

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