Overdrive Racing and Toyota look ahead to second week with four Hiluxes inside top 10 at Dakar Rally

– Overdrive Racing’s De Mévius and Chicherit hold fifth and 11th
– Yazeed Al-Rajhi crashes out of Dakar lead 51km into sixth stage

Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing look ahead to the second week of the 46th Dakar Rally with four Toyota Hiluxes running inside the top 10.

With six stages still to run on what has been one of the most difficult Dakars in recent memory, the team heads into week two with mixed emotions after long-time leader Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his co-driver Timo Gottschalk crashed out of the overall lead 51km into the sixth stage.

Despite rolling on the fifth special in the dunes, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Brazilian driver Lucas Moraes and his Spanish co-driver Armand Monleón are well-placed in fourth overall and third of the crews registered for the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

Guillaume de Mévius and Xavier Panseri won the opening stage and overcame time delays later in the week to hold fifth place in their Toyota GR DKR Hilux prepared by Overdrive Racing.

South African veteran Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy are classified in sixth, fellow countrymen Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings are 10th and the French crew of Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq are 11th in their Overdrive Racing Toyota.

Chicherit said: “That 48-hour stage (six) will remain in the history of the Dakar and in our memories. The 547km was terribly demanding. I suffered, like last year, from the pain in the dunes (motion sickness) but I take comfort in knowing that I was not alone. Alex and I spent the night with Nasser and Mathieu (Al-Attiyah and Baumel) and Mattias and Emil (Ekström and Bergkvist) in the camp after 436km in the middle of the desert. It was magical. We are now at the gates of the top 10 and I have six more specials to get into the top five.”

Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov are still in contention for the top 10 in their 15th-placed Overdrive Racing Toyota and the Italian pairing of Eugenio Amos and Paulo Ceci are classified in 23rd.

Ronan Chabot and Gilles Picard are not registered for the W2RC, but the French crew are running in 47th, seven places ahead of Argentina’s Juan-Cruz Yacopini and Spanish co-driver Daniel Oliveras, who lost a lot of time with suspension damage in the dunes. Lionel and Lucie Baud are 57th overall.

Talented young American Seth Quintero is no longer eligible to challenge for Dakar honours after his Hilux underwent an engine block change and he incurred massive time penalties but he and Dennis Zenz are continuing in a bid to grab valuable W2RC points.

Al-Hofuf – Riyadh
A long road section and a dune stage of 117.52km was on the agenda for stage five between Al-Hofuf and Al-Shubaytah and no-one really wanted to be first on the road before the 48-hour Marathon session in the vast Empty Quarter.

The fifth special was a superb one for Overdrive Racing and four cars filled the top five positions, with Chicherit, Yacopini, Al-Rajhi and De Mévius coming home in second, third, fourth and fifth places behind the stage-winning Al-Attiyah. The result enabled Al-Rajhi to extend his overall lead to 9min 03sec, while De Mévius climbed to eighth overall and Krotov moved up to 15th.

Al-Rajhi said: « We didn’t want to open the road tomorrow. This was our plan. During the special, Timo and I were unsure whether to slow down or not, but I reckon we did the right thing by not easing up too much. Tomorrow will be different. We’ll go on the offensive and see how it goes. »

Despite help from fellow countryman Marcos Baumgart, time losses after an accident in the dunes pushed Moraes back to 10th in his TGR Toyota and Quintero was able to continue with massive time penalties after an engine block change the previous evening.

The Dakar then featured a new 48-hour Marathon stage through the vast Empty Quarter from Shubaytah with competitors able to help each other with basic repairs and maintenance, although the various teams were split over eight different overnight bivouacs.

At 16.00hrs on Thursday, vehicles were required to stop and head to the closest designated bivouac they came across with no idea of their rivals’ stage progress. Motorcycles and quads tackled a different route to cars and trucks, although the stage for the cars was shortened from 570km to 547km over concerns that vehicles may run out of fuel in the soft sand.

Al-Rajhi’s dream of winning the Dakar for the first time ended with a high-speed crash after 51km. The car ended up badly damaged after the impact and the uninjured crew were transported back to the bivouac in Shubaytah. « After 51 kilometres, everything was okay on a very fast chott and we were at full speed when I hit something, » said the Saudi. « The car did a barrel roll and now it is damaged. »

Chicherit was running amongst the leading group in seventh, despite complaining of dune sickness, and the Frenchman camped out under the stars with Al-Attiyah and Ekström before resuming his challenge over the second part of the stage. Yacopini suffered rear suspension problems after 145km.

The stage win eventually fell to Sébastien Loeb, as four-time winner Carlos Sainz snatched the overall lead and Moraes, Chicherit, De Villiers and De Mévius completed one of the toughest stages of their careers in fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth places.

Action continues on Sunday, January 14th with a run west and then north towards Al-Duwadimi and the city of Ha’il.

Teams will then pass through the northern deserts and the northwestern region of the Kingdom over three remaining stages between Al-Ula and the finish in Yanbu on the Red Sea on January 19th.

2024 Dakar Rally – positions at Riyadh rest day :
1. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Audi RS Q E-tron E2, 24hr 59min 32sec
2. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) Audi RS Q E-tron E2, 25hr 19min 53sec
3. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Fabian Lurquin (BEL) BRX Prodrive Hunter, 25hr 29min 03sec*
4. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota GR DKR Hilux, 26hr 03min 32sec
5. Guillaume de Mevius (BEL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 26hr 09min 19sec
6. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Dennis Murphy (ZAF) Toyota GR DKR Hilux, 26hr 24min 48sec*
7. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE) Ford Raptor RS, 26hr 34min 36sec
8. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Century CR6-T, 26hr 51min 52sec
9. Eryk Goczal (POL)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Taurus T3 Max, 26hr 52min 02sec
10. Guy Botterill (ZAF)/Brett Cummings (ZAF) Toyota GR DKR Hilux, 26hr 54min 13sec*
11. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA)/Alex Winocq (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 26hr 58min 06sec
12. Benediktas Vanagas (LTU)/Kuldar Sikk (LTU) Toyota Hilux, 27hr 05min 17sec*
13. Joan ‘Nani’ Roma (ESP)/A;ex Haro (ESP) Ford Ranger, 27hr 06min 39sec*
14. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Valentin Sarreaud (FRA) MD Optimus, 27hr 27min 34sec
15. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 27hr 36min 28sec
16. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Alberto Andreotti (BRA) Prodrive Hunter, 27hr 38min 24sec
17. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Prodrive Hunter, 27hr 40min 26sec
18. Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) Taurus T3 Max, 27hr 54min 20sec
19. Laia Sanz (ESP)/Maurizio Gerini (ITA) Astara CR6-T, 27hr 55min 37sec*
20. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Taurus T3 Max, 28hr 18min 36sec*…

Select others
23. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paulo Ceci (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 28hr 35min 38sec
28. Saood Variawa (ZAF)/François Cazalet (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux, 29hr 05min 38sec
47. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 32hr 09min 08sec*
54. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 33hr 05min 01sec
57. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 33hr 38min 58sec
102. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennios Zenz (DEU) Toyota GR DKR Hilux, 65hr 56min 05sec
Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, RETIRED
*denotes NOT registered for W2RC