World Rally-Raid Championship

Benediktas Vanagas lends BlackHawk Hilux to Nasser Al-Attiyah for Qatar Baja

1 Mins read
Credit: Benediktas Vanagas

BlackHawk’s next flight is a return to the Persian Gulf. With Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ severely damaged after wrecking in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, fellow Hilux driver Benediktas Vanagas decided to offre his own T1+ to the Dakar Rally champion for this weekend’s Qatar International Baja.

Vanagas crashed out of the 2023 Dakar Rally while Al-Attiyah went on to win the event for the second straight year. Al-Attiyah, the reigning World Rally-Raid Champion, was poised to continue his string of success at the next round in Abu Dhabi as he won the first three days including the Prologue, but flipped his Hilux three times upon hitting a kicker dune in Stage #3. While he reached the finish and won the stage anyway, the truck suffered severe damage that included the rear and windshield being torn off, which was too substantial for him to continue.

Al-Attiyah’s Hilux will return to action at the Sonora Rally in April, but that left him without a working car for Qatar, a round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. Indeed, Vanagas and Toyota Gazoo Racing Baltics, an ally of Al-Attiyah’s flagship Toyota Gazoo Racing, were more than happy to help out.

Nicknamed “BlackHawk”, the Hilux T1+ became Vanagas’ vehicle of choice beginning 2023. In late February, he lent the truck to João Ramos for the Portugal All-Terrain Championship’s season-opening Baja TT Montes Alentejanos; Ramos, who normally raced a Hilux T1, won the overall in the rechristened “Dama Negra”. While Vanagas is not racing for the W2RC, he will return to the driver’s seat for the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas when it begins with the Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura in Spain on 14–16 April.

Vanagas and Al-Attiyah are good friends via their Toyota connections. During the Dakar Rally, Al-Attiyah agreed to autograph merchandise for Vanagas to auction off for relief efforts for the war in Ukraine, with a signed Red Bull cap going for €1,000. Body panels from BlackHawk like the front fender also went on auction to support Ukraine.

The Qatar International Baja, scheduled for 16–18 March, is the second leg of the Cross-Country Bajas World Cup. Al-Attiyah won the season-opening Saudi Baja in February.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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