Dakar Rally 2018: Top 5 Toyota Moments, Part 1

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From fires to blazing speeds across the Peruvian desert, Toyotas have left a mark on this year’s grueling off-road endurance race.

Despite major successes in short-track truck racing and the Baja 1000, Toyota has never won the biggest off-road prize of them all: the Dakar Rally. With three factory-backed Hilux trucks tailored to the early and late sections of the 2018 Dakar Rally, it seemed like this might be Toyota’s year.

The first half has provided some seriously exciting racing moments for both the official Toyota entries and for several smaller, private teams. Here are five big Toyota-related moments from the opening half of Dakar Rally 2018.

1. Toyota storms out of the gate

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA leader Nasser Al-Attiyah took home the first stage win of Dakar. New teammate Bernhard Ten Brinke finished second place on Day 1 and Giniel de Villiers finished the short stage 6th. Privateer Lucio Alvarez put his Toyota 7th and things looked up for Toyota with the best Peugeot languishing in 11th. With dunes populating the first five stages of the 2018 Dakar Rally, Toyota seemed to have chosen wisely with all-wheel drive this year while the two-wheel-drive Peugeots struggled.

2. Nasser Al-Attiyah struggles mightily

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Al-Attiyah would have no luck at all. On Day 2, his co-driver Matthieu Baumel suffered from apparent food poisoning. If you’ve ever been sick while off-roading, you know how miserable that was for both of the crew. Baumel’s illness cost them significant time on stages where Toyota needed to succeed. Al-Attiyah came back with a stage win on Day 3, but missteps on the dunes the next two days proved costly. Nevertheless, the driver from Qatar begins the second half of Dakar in third place overall.

3. Desert jumpstart

Competitors run longs sections of the Dakar Rally in utter solitude. That said, many local off-roaders head to the middle of nowhere to catch glimpses of the rally-raiders motoring through the desert. As it happens, Mauricio Velazquez and Mauricio Sierra scored in the Dakar remote-repair lottery when their Toyota ground to a halt on the dunes with an electrical failure. Luckily, the truck stopped near some spectators.

When the crew traced their issues to a dead battery, one of the nearby spectators went and either nabbed a spare battery or pulled the one out of his wheeling rig. Not all heroes wear capes; some just help stricken rally cars in the middle of absolute nowhere.

4. Stick the landing

Like solitude, a sense of danger pervades all parts of Dakar. Motorcycle riders fall regularly — defending Bikes champion Sam Sunderland left Stage 5 in a helicopter with a back injury — but a surprising number of cars, trucks, bikes, and quads just carry on after big crashes. Despite their  Toyota that sticking this jump’s nose-first landing like a lawn dart, Alejandro Yacopini and Marco Scopinaro made it to the Rest Day in 14th place overall.

2018 Dakar Rally Toyota

5. Fire in the desert – Alicia Reina

Not all incidents feature a happy ending, however. Argentine rally legend Alicia Reina watched in tears as her Dakar Toyota burned to a crisp in the Atacama Desert. She and co-driver Carlos Dante Pelayo escaped without serious injury, which is what primarily matters. However, few things will break your heart like watching your prized off-roading vehicle in flames hundreds of miles from a fire truck.

To the End

The second half of the Dakar Rally 2018 starts in La Paz, Bolivia. With several days spent at more than 10,000 feet altitude, the Toyotas’ naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8s present a major disadvantage to the Peugeots’ turbocharged diesel V6s. However, you can expect the Toyotas to press the Peugeots as hard as possible through the narrow roads of the Andes Mountains. As any Dakar competitor will tell you, there’s a long way to go and anything can happen.

Check back here on YotaTech after the Dakar Rally for Toyota highlights of the race’s second half.

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