Rookie Lategan crashes out, but earns his Dakar stripes
A first stage win at Dakar 2021 for Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, together with a solid fourth place for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, meant stage 5 of the world’s toughest automotive race will long be remembered by the SA Toyota Gazoo team.
However, the delight was tempered by the retirement of rookie Henk Lategan and his navigator Brett Cummings after a heavy crash near the start of Thursday's stage.
The pair were placed fifth overall at the start of the 456km stage between the Saudi capital Riyadh and Al Qaisumah, and had put in excellent performances in recent days including second on stage 3 and third on stage 4.
They got off to a good start on Thursday, but hit a ditch just 19km into the stage, flipping the Toyota Hilux end over end.
The pair escaped serious injury but Henk injured his shoulder and had to be flown to a hospital. He has a suspected fractured collarbone and the accident brings an end to a stunning Dakar debut for the 26-year-old.
🚗 4th in the GC this morning, @henk_lategan suffered a spectacular accident at the beginning of the special. He has fractured his collarbone and has been airlifted to Riyadh. His co-driver @BrettCummings83 was unharmed. 🚑#Dakar2021 pic.twitter.com/F1o9BSlaIK— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 7, 2021
“Hearing about a crash always sets your heart racing, and we were very relieved to hear the injuries were minor. Henk and Brett only came to Dakar to learn this year, but they quickly showed they have the pace to mix it up with the top drivers in the world,” said a disappointed Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Glyn Hall.
“From what we know, today’s crash was an absolute accident. Pure bad luck at exactly the wrong place. But despite their premature exit, Henk and Brett have made their mark on the biggest cross-country stage in the world, and we’re looking forward to watching their progress in the months and years to come.”
Lategan is the youngest driver to win the SA cross-country championship. Having started his career in rallying as a co-driver for his father Hein at the age of 15 before moving to the driver's seat, Henk switched to cross-country racing and joined the Toyota Gazoo team in 2018.
He claimed the last two domestic championships, beating 2009 Dakar winner Giniel De Villiers, who is also his team mate.
Cummings made his debut this year as a car navigator after competing in the motorcycle class of the 2013 and 2014 Dakar rallies.