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Dakar: “We are going to create a good surprise”, warns the boss of Toyota

Orphan of Nasser Al-Attiyah, winner of the last two Dakars, Toyota boss Jean-Marc Fortin intends to defy the predictions, in the shadow of the big favorites of the legendary rally-raid which began on Friday in Saudi Arabia.

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Dakar: “We are going to create a good surprise”, warns the boss of Toyota

Orphan of Nasser Al-Attiyah, winner of the last two Dakars, Toyota boss Jean-Marc Fortin intends to defy the predictions, in the shadow of the big favorites of the legendary rally-raid which began on Friday in Saudi Arabia.

Accompanied by his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel with whom he scored four of his five Dakar victories (including three with Toyota), Al-Attiyah left the Japanese manufacturer after seven seasons. They joined Sébastien Loeb at Prodrive before then meeting again for the 2025 season at Dacia.

“For us, it's a year of transition, we focused on the youth of the pilots,” explains Jean-Marc Fortin to AFP, a big smile on the corners of his lips in his tent at the Al-Ula Start Camp in Saudi Arabia.

He seems delighted with this “outsider position”: “We are trying to build the future with Lucas Moraes (Brazilian, 33 years old) and Seth Quintero (American, 21 years old)”. Lucas Moraes was the revelation of the Dakar-2023 by rising to everyone's surprise on the podium in 3rd place behind Al-Attiyah and Loeb. He arrived as a “rookie”, his first participation in the rally-raid.

Seth Quintero, 21, holds the record for stage victories on a Dakar (12 victories in 2022) in T3 (lightweight prototype, Editor's note), and finished second in his category last year.

“He was the revelation of the last race in Dubai, being 54 seconds behind Nasser in his old Toyota. Seth is a rough diamond that just needs to be polished,” describes the Toyota team boss.

He also believes a lot in the chances of the Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the Dakar: “He wears bib 201, it's not for nothing”, being the runner-up to the Qatari in the W2RC (rally-raid) world championship.

His message is clear: we must not bury our Toyotas. “We have the same car, with which we have already won, it is very reliable and over 15 days it is an advantage. And we drive a lot unlike the Prodrives. We had four cars in the top 5 in Morocco in October,” says Jean-Marc Fortin.

Toyota achieved the “Big Five” in 2023 by winning the five rally-raids of the season: Nasser Al-Attiyah was crowned with three victories (the Dakar in Saudi Arabia, Sonora in Mexico and Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina) and Yazeed Al-Rajhi won two competitions (Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in the United Arab Emirates and the Morocco rally).

If his team had a weakness on this Dakar, it would be not having one of the four favorites in its ranks: Nasser Al-Attiyah, Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive), Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz (Audi).

“But we’ll let them get excited. We know the Dakar well, we don't have the pressure this year. We are going to create a good surprise,” he insists.

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