• Toyota Gazoo Racing won Stage 3 of Dakar 2021.
• Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel are now second overall.
• Rookie Henk Lategan drove superbly to finish the stage in second place
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A second consecutive stage win for Toyota Gazoo Racing's Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel gave the team plenty to cheer about on Stage 3 of Dakar 2021. But then Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings added to the joy by posting the second-fastest time on the looped stage that started and finished in Wadi Ad-Dawasir, on the edge of Saudi Arabia's so-called Empty Quarter.
Glyn Hall, Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal, said: "Nasser clearly had the bit between his teeth today, winning the stage despite having to open the road. And then Henk and Brett showed their class by hooking up a perfect stage. If the cross-country world didn't know of them before, it'll certainly take notice after Stage 3."
The Qatari driver was the first car into the 403km-long special stage. With the task of finding the correct route squarely on the shoulders of Baumel, the pair set about their business with determination. They quickly built up a lead, and managed to maintain and stretch this towards the end of the stage, eventually winning by 2min 27sec over Lategan/Cummings - but crucially 4min 05sec over rally leader Stephane Peterhansel (Mini). This moves Al-Attiyah/Baumel up to second overall, and they are now just 5min 09sec behind the leaders.
Pipping 'Mr Dakar'
Lategan and Cummings started the stage as the 14th car on the road, and made the most of their road position to carve their way through the field. In the end, they pipped "Mr Dakar", Peterhansel, by 1min 39sec, to claim second place on the stage and move up to 7th place in the overall rankings.
Stage 3 brought more challenges for Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, who suffered a broken driveshaft early in the stage. This took some time to repair, dropping them down into the dust of slower competitors. Two punctures added to their woes, and the Dakar veteran lost 37min 47sec on the stage. The pair are now in 23rd position overall, 1hr 46min 05sec behind the leaders.
The fourth Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, in the hands of Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy, suffered a similar fate to that of De Villiers/Haro. A broken driveshaft early on, followed by several punctures, saw the crew lose 02hr 06 min 39sec on the stage.
Hall added: "While we'd have preferred to have all four cars record competitive stage times today, we are delighted with Nasser's stage win; as well as Henk's second place. Let's hope Giniel and Shameer can have clean runs on the next stage."
Stage 4 stretches from Wadi Ad-Dawasir to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, via the longest liaison of the race, at 476km. The racing section is described as a 'transition stage', run mainly on winding tracks. But even so, at 337km it is still a stern test, and Al-Attiyah will be keen to make the most of his road position at the head of the field.