WALVIS BAY, Namibia – Toyota has completed a successful week of testing in the Namib ahead of its assault on the Dakar Rally in South America early in 2014. Based about 30km near Walvis Bay, Giniel de Villiers, Dirk von Zitzewitz, Rob Howie and new team member Leeroy Poulter tested the new Toyota Hiluxes in conditions that closely resemble those that can be found in South America’s Atacama Desert.IMAGE GALLERYThe 2014 Dakar Rally will be run from January 5-18v2014‘HAPPY WITH PROGRESS’The 2014 Dakar will be the third Toyota has tackled and is the world’s longest and toughest race. Villiers/Zitzewitz were third in 2012 and second in 2013. They won in 2009 while competing for Volkswagen.Toyota team principal Glyn Hall told Wheels24 : “Since our success in 2013 we've continued our development of the Toyota Hilux in the South African Cross-Country championship, one of the world's toughest and most-respected National championships. “Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy are leading with three rounds remaining after winning the previous three. Duncan Vos and Rob Howie are third, so we are happy with our progress. I’d say the local championship satisfies 55% to 65% of what we need to know to tackle the next Dakar with confidence, except for driving on sand dunes. “The local championship gives us the opportunity to test the reliability of the vehicle’s components. For the rest we’ve come to Namibia for the sand dunes and the semi-desert environment that's so similar to the geography of the South American coastal areas, specifically in Chile’s Atacama desert, reputed to be the driest in the world.”The team is working on the chassis and suspension of its Dakar-tuned Hiluxes. Toyota has also worked on the aerodynamics, brakes, transmission and new aircon.Other engines were evaluated but Toyota has stayed with its five-litre V8 used in the 2013 Dakar rally.‘LOT OF WORK AHEAD’Hall said: “The weather conditions were perfect for the entire week so we completed more than 2000km of valuable testing in the desert. We got through our very full programme of tasks and nearly all were completed with good results, especially the new suspension which was only finished the day before we left. “Poulter, as we expected, has fitted into the Dakar team very easily and has gained valuable knowledge in big dunes and rough gravel conditions ahead of the Dakar. He used every hour available to run in the dunes and finalised some of the testing of the new car while Villiers completed some TV work on the final day.“We now need to complete the two new Dakar bakkies that are under construction in our workshop and apply what we’ve learned in Namibia. There's still a lot of work ahead and the pressure will be on until we deliver the Dakar vehicles to South African Airways early in December.”They will compete in the next round of the 2013 South African Cross-Country championship, the Vryburg 400, in North West Province later in August 2013.