Toyota HiLux driver Nasser Al Attiyah has won two of the first three stages in the gruelling 9,000km Dakar rally, the world’s toughest automotive race.
Al Attiyah, a two-time Dakar winner, is now placed third overall in his HiLux after winning the first and third stages on the sand dunes and dirt tracks of Peru.
The Toyota GAZOO Racing SA HiLux team now holds three of the top seven positions in the off-road endurance race, with 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers fifth and Dutch driver Bernard ten Brinke seventh.
Qatari Al Attiyah and French navigator Mathieu Baumel dominated the 296km third stage from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, winning by more than four minutes despite being hampered by two punctures.
“If it weren’t for the punctures, we would’ve been in an even stronger position,” Al Attiyah said. “But even so we are happy with today’s result, and we are now right back in the fight.”
The latest success for HiLux comes after the team began the 2018 event in style with Al Attiyah and Ten Brinke finishing one-two on the opening stage.
During the second stage, Al Attiyah was forced to stop twice when Baumel became violently ill, but de Villiers stepped up to fourth fastest over the 267km stage.
Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa has built all-new cars for the 40th running of the famed rally raid.
The 2018 Dakar rally has 14 racing stages totalling more than 4,500km and almost 4,500km of transport legs, taking competitors from Peru through Bolivia and Argentina with only one rest day in the Bolivian capital of La Paz.
The event ends on January 20 in Cordoba, Argentina.