The overlooked drive of the Dakar so far

Henk Lategan almost won his first ever stage on the Dakar Rally on Tuesday, believing he pushed 'beyond his experience level'


Twelve months ago, or near enough, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings were upside down somewhere in the Saudi Arabian desert.

A crash early on during the fifth stage of the Dakar Rally had been a rude – and rather painful – awakening for a crew which had been fighting for a berth in the top five positions. That accident fractured Latagen’s collarbone and Lategan he underwent several arduous surgeries to get it right again.

Since then, he’s picked up another South African off-road title and came into this year’s Dakar with the aim of learning and reaching the finish as he builds experience.

Returning from injury this year, Lategan produced a near-perfect, albeit overlooked performance on the third stage the rally, emerging as stage winner Carlos Sainz’s closest challenger in a nail-biting scrap.


On Tuesday’s shortened stage, he lead the way for all but one of the waypoints, eventually having to cede to the vastly more experienced Sainz by just 38s.

“The beginning of the stage was for us, super nice, super smooth and flowing and really high-speed stuff, so I was really enjoying it myself in the beginning,” explained Lategan. “There were a few dune crossings and at the first set of dunes, I was feeling comfortable, feeling confident.

“I don’t know if I was driving to my experience level, maybe I was going a bit over it, but I was able to pull it back a bit towards the end.”

Having pushed the limits to the edge, Lategan opted to preserve his strong run on the stage and back off as the difficulty of the dunes increased.

“We got into some very tricky dunes, and I just didn’t feel confident enough to push across them. I think the older guys, or the more experienced guys just know what to do through there, so I just decided to back off in there a little bit in order to get to the end of the stage.

Lategan will start Wednesday’s longest stage of the rally second on the road as the cavalcade heads to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

“Tomorrow, we’ll try again, I think it’s going to be very tricky going from second on the road, we’ll have a lot less tracks to follow and from what I hear, it’s going to be a very difficult day.”


His rally is set to get a bit harder as well, following a stewards’ decision on Tuesday which handed Lategan a five-minute penalty for a breach of the turbo boost usage regulations during SS2.

The stewards found that Lategan’s GR Toyota Hilux DKR T1+ had been guilty of “exceeding the maximum permitted turbo pressure value by 30mBars/s or more, and recorded on SS2 six times.”

Words:Stephen Brunsdon