LET'S GO RALLY! Motorsport ace Giniel de Villiers will head up the SA team for the 2015 Dakar Rally from January 4-17. Image: Toyota SA
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - When it comes to surviving everything that the roughest terrain can put in your way there’s no motorsport event to match the Dakar Rally every January through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
The Toyota Dakar team, for instance, builds its competing Hilux vehicles using mostly local components. In fact, as much as 80% of each vehicle is manufactured in a specialist workshop in Kyalami, Johannesburg, by a team of local petrolheads who eat, breathe and sleep their dream of winning the world’s toughest event.
LOCAL IS LEKKER
The team fields two Hiluxes each year with South African drivers Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter at the wheel and guided by, respectively, by Dirk von Zitzewitz and Rob Howie.
De Villiers has reached the Dakar podium three times - he won in 2009, second in 2013, third in 2011 - and has been the team’s lead driver since 2012, putting the South African flag firmly in the global spotlight.
Poulter has won many events driving a rally Auris and the latest edition from Toyota motorsport, the Yaris S2000 machine, and is a multiple World champion in karting. He has crammed 26 years of active motorsport experience into his 32 years.
The customised Hiluxes have been designed in South Africa by South African engineers, in compliance with the strict rules set out by the Dakar Rally organisers.
TEST OF MAN AND MACHINE
Toyota Motorsport SA team principal Glyn Hall said: “Even though we have incredibly generous sponsors, the South African team is competing with its budget in rands, against international teams that have millions of US dollars or Euros behind them.
"We built a culture of innovation when we were isolated by sanctions in the 1980's and we’ve kept that culture going now that we’re competing against bigger-budget teams across the world to make sure that we can still hold our heads high in the global arena.
“We’re lucky that we were able to compete in the SA National Cross-Country series with the Hiluxes during 2014; the rules are very similar to those of the Dakar. This gives us eight opportunities to test close to home each year, an advantage few other teams have.
"These events give us a great indication of the strength of the vehicles, as a typical 500km event in this format puts the equivalent of 5000km worth of strain on a standard vehicle.”
Hall emphasises that conditions on the Dakar are extreme, each driver/navigator team being confined in a small space that goes up to 50 degrees in the South American desert heat, with each of them consuming up to seven litres of fluids a day – and still running the risk of dehydration.
The logistics supporting the team are tremendous, says Toyota, with the team travelling with nearly nine tonnes of spare parts, tools and equipment to support the two race Hiluxes, which are packed into 78 containers for transport from Kyalami to the start of the event – and then to each stopover during the two-week race.
Furthermore, the team takes its own water to the event, makes its own ice, and sterilises all the racers’ equipment every night.
Hall explained: "Navigators only get the next day’s route the night before each stage and teams could still have to drive 400km to get to the start. There’s one rest day for the drivers but the mechanics and crew are working 24/7 for the duration of the event.
"The Dakar truly is a remarkable test of man and machine."
The next Dakar Rally will run from January 4-17 2015. Visit the dakar website for more information or...
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