It is all systems go for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, as all the final hurdles prior to the start of Dakar 2019 have now been cleared. Sunday, January 6thsaw the team complete the final technical checks and vehicle scrutineering, before taking part in the ceremonial start podium in downtown Lima.
“Now all that remains is for the race to get under way,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after all three Toyota Hilux cleared the podium. “The entire team is extremely positive at this point, and with all the formalities done, we are chomping at the bit.”
Stage 1 promises a short, sharp start to the race, at only 84 km – but since the entire stage will be run in the dunes, it would be dangerous to underestimate the challenge set by the opener. The stage is preceded by a liaison of 247 km from the bivouac in Lima to the start.
“Underestimating the opening stage would certainly be a mistake,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers from the start podium. “In Dakar terms, 84 km doesn’t sound like a lot, but the massive dunes we’ll encounter could make it really tough.”
To make the stage even tougher for De Villiers, as well as teammate Nasser Al Attiyah, they will be running near the front of the field for Stage 1.
“The cars are going off in the order that they finished last year,” explained Hall, “so Carlos Sainz, who won the race in 2018, will be the first car on the road. Nasser will be second out of the starting blocks, with Giniel in third place. Our third driver, Bernhard ten Brinke, will start lower down the order, as he didn’t complete the 2018 event.”
Road position is sure to have a big impact throughout the race, with the dunes making navigation even trickier than usual. Starting lower down the order may be advantageous, as there will likely be tracks to follow. But the road position will change throughout the race, as each stage is opened by the winner of the preceding stage.
Dakar 2019 consists of 10 racing stages, including one marathon stage to the town of Tacna. This stage will be tackled without the support of the service crews, and can play a pivotal role in the outcome of the event. The race will come to an end on January 17th, back in the Peruvian capital of Lima.