It’s unfathomable why anyone would subject themselves to that kind of torture. Driving 9000km across three countries for two weeks in sweltering summer temperatures is definitely not something most people do for fun, so what would be the appeal then? It’s the Dakar, of course!The 2012 Dakar will have a particularly South African flavour to it. Under the guidance of motorsport stalwart Glyn Hall, seasoned campaigners, 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz will lead the Imperial Toyota team from position one at Mar del Plata on January 1, 2011. Four locally-built Toyota Hiluxes have been prepared for what has been referred to as the world’s toughest enduro race particularly, as De Villiers pointed out, new stages have been added in Peru that are said to be quite difficult. EXPERIENCEDe Villiers will lead from the front in what will be his ninth Dakar challenge while multiple local motorsport champions but Dakar rookies Duncan Vos and Rob Howie will start their proceedings in 13th position (of 171 "cars") in the second Hilux. The timing of this year’s Dakar is special for the country, too. Calvyn Hamman, Toyota’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, explained at the ceremonial send-off of the South African team that the decision to compete in the prestigious Dakar was “a wonderful opportunity for Hilux”. A LITTLE OUT OF PLACE?: Giniel de Villiers's racing Hilux stands out in the non-racing environment of Toyota SA's museum. “Hilux has been the cornerstone of Toyota SA and we have been looking for an opportunity to show it off in our 50th anniversary year.”The Imperial Toyota crew is not the only one that will be showing off these Proudly SA Hiluxes; one has been prepared for an Argentine privateer while another will be run by Belgian team Overdrive. But more than show off the prowess of SA-built Hiluxes, the project will also provide a platform for suppliers who will be providing technology developed here in South Africa to the race programme. Three tonnes of equipment, including 104 shocks, 112 tyres and thousands of tools and parts - and the Hiluxes, of course - will be making their way across the Atlantic.So how does the Dakar veteran feel about the 2012 race? “The Hilux base is very good,” De Villiers said. It is, after all, based on the SP class machine used in the local, fiercely contested National Off-Road championship. EXPECTATION “We have a competitive car and it shows we have the ability, expertise and the will to do it in SA. A top five finish will be a good result; a podium position, a bonus,” De Villiers added. And the Dakar novice who’s spent an “invaluable 10 days testing” for what will likely be one of the longest 9000km of his life? He’s not too fazed: “I’m not worried about my speed. I just want to finish the race."Either way, Toyota’s Dakar team (with a sea of partners including the Imperial Group, Innovation Group and Duxbury Netgear) is primed to tackle the toughest Dakar yet. With barely a month to go, spare a thought for the team, cars and their tons of equipment, heading out to Buenos Aires on December 26, 2011 ahead of scrutineering on December 31 and the race start on January 1. Dakar 2012 is going to be wild.