Boot camp for SA Dakar contenders
EVO HILUX TO STRIKE GOLD: The Gold 400 event will hopefully give Toyota one last chance to work out any kinks before flying out to South America for the 2013 Dakar rally.
GAUTENG - With less than four weeks remaining before heading to South America, Toyota's two Dakar Rally challengers are undergoing the most intensive testing programme yet by the team.
The regime includes participating in the final round of the South African Off Road Championship - the Gold 400 in Gauteng - from November 23/24, 2012.
Following a successful shakedown test, the new evolution Dakar Toyota Hilux has been racking up hundreds of test kilometres in sand dunes and dirt tracks on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
'LITTLE SLEEP, LOTS OF DEDICATION'
Driver Giniel de Villiers got acquainted with his new Dakar Hilux after team mate Duncan Vos took the wheel for the initial shakedown.
De Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, the 2009 Dakar Rally winners and third in 2012, will crew the 2013 Hilux. Vos and Rob Howie will compete in the 2012 version in which they finished 10th in the 2012 championship.
The Hilux has undergone development throughout the local off road championship. Both models are powered by a five-litre version of Toyota’s production V8 engine fitted with a 36mm air restrictor to meet Dakar regulations.
Toyota Motorsport director and team principal Glyn Hall said: “It’s been a really big week for us. After a massive achievement by the team in the workshop to get the new racing Hilux built and ready for testing in a very short space of time, we have successfully run it virtually from dawn to dusk every day this past week, in both sandy and rough conditions.
“So far we’ve had zero faults and that’s meant we’ve been able to concentrate on the vehicle’s performance, which we’ve improved considerably.
This has been great news for the team and has boosted our confidence for the great challenges ahead. The designers, fabricators and assemblers have done a brilliant job under the most trying of circumstances. Little sleep, lots of dedication and massive self-belief. I’m very proud of them all.”
Vos and Howie are leading the SA Off-road championship after winning three of the last six events and will be aiming to take the title for Toyota.
Toyota has received special permission from the Off Road Racing Commission of Motorsport South Africa to run the evo Hilux ahead of the official grid on both days of the upcoming off-road race. Riding alongside De Villiers will be Francois Jordaan, who has won three national off road championships as a co-driver with De Villiers in 2001, and navigated De Villiers to seventh place in the 2004 Dakar Rally in Africa.
Hall said: “We negotiated to use the Gold 400 to test the new Dakar Hilux and the fact that we’ve been allowed to do this is testament to the tremendous support we have received from the off road racing community since our Dakar adventure started at the end of 2011. They are all behind Toyota’s bold programme to win the Dakar Rally by 2015.
“The Gold 400 route, which covers some 400km over the two days, includes high-speed open sections and some technical challenges among koppies and rocky sections. It will be a really good test of the evo Hilux and will also give Giniel a chance to get to know the new vehicle’s characteristics and provide us with valuable feedback."
Other Stories in Dakar...
The 9500km haul through Argentina and Chile was the longest, highest and toughest Dakar yet. Among the survivors were Toyota South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, Dirk von Zitzewitz, Leeroy Poulter, Rob Howie and privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr.
Giniel de Villiers was not the only South African to make waves at the 2014 Dakar, truck driver Albert Geel was co-driver in the fastest truck running in the grueling rally.