ABU DHABI – Toyota scored a maiden victory on the FIA Cross-Country World Cup circuit, when Nasser Al-Attiyah won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge yesterday. This race, run over five days, was Round Two of the World Cup, and saw defending champion Al-Attiyah campaign a South African Toyota Hilux.
Partnered with navigator Matthieu Baumel, Al-Attiyah piloted the Toyota Hilux, built at Toyota South Africa Motors’ motorsport HQ at Hallspeed near Kyalami, to a resounding 32-minute victory. This places the crew at the top of this year’s World Cup standings, and they’re looking forward to campaigning the Toyota again at the next round, which takes place in Qatar on April 17-22, 2016.
“I am delighted with this result and the performance of the Toyota,” said Al-Attiyah after completing the race. “It wasn’t easy, but we controlled our pace from the front of the field right from the start, and I’m happy to be leading the championship. At times the dunes were tricky, but the car was strong and reliable.”
The Toyota Hilux that Al-Attiyah drove on the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was the same vehicle that finished third in this year’s Dakar Rally, in the hands of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz.
“The car was returned to South Africa after the Dakar, where it was rebuilt and prepared for the World Cup,” explains Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “We then shipped the Hilux directly to Abu Dhabi, where our partners Overdrive Racing took delivery. They did a very competent job of running the Toyota Hilux, though we also sent one of our own technicians to assist them.”
The conditions on this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge were tricky, with rain in the desert, as well as many long dune sections to negotiate. This suited the Toyota Hilux, which proved completely reliable over the length of the race. It also suited the tough and experienced crew of Al-Attiyah and Baumel, who never made any serious mistakes, ensuring a comfortable victory in the end.
In South Africa, the local cross-country championship got under way in Vryburg last weekend, and saw defending champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie win the RFS Endurance, behind the wheel of a Toyota Hilux that is virtually identical to the vehicle driven by Al-Attiyah in the United Arab Emirates this week. Former champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy placed the second Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux on the second step of the podium in Vryburg, underlining the reliability and speed of the latest version of the racing Toyota Hilux.