SA HILUX FLAG FLYING HIGH: The Toyota Imperial SA team has fielded its "best race Toyota Hilux yet" to take on the 2015 Dakar Rally. Image: Toyota
For motorsport enthusiasts January is synonymous with only one thing: the Dakar Rally. The 2015 race promises to live up to the legend created by the 35 previous editions of what has become one of our planet’s most iconic motorsport events.
As was the case in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Toyota Imperial South Africa Dakar Team will be particpating, fielding the best race Toyota Hilux yet.
Team Principal Glyn Hall said: "We are very pleased with the latest evolution of our proven Toyota Hilux Dakar bakkie. This is the third generation of the vehicle which came third in its first year on the Dakar. And most importantly, the drivers are just as happy with it as I am.”
SA'S VETERAN DRIVERS
The driver line-up for 2015 is unchanged from the last Dakar: Giniel de Villiers, who won the event in 2009, will again spearhead Toyota Imperial South Africa Dakar Team’s attack. It will be De Villiers’ 12th year of participation. Alongside him will be long-time navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany), a veteran of 14 Dakar Rallies.
IMAGE GALLERY: Toyota Hilux takes on 2015 Dakar rally
Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie will again be in action in the second Imperial Toyota Hilux. The pair made their mark early in the 2014 race when they set the third-fastest time on Stage 3, finishing in 33rd position overall after the 13 stages that made up the race.
THE NEW DAKAR HILUX
The new Imperial Toyota Hilux is essentially an evolution rather than a complete redesign. As such it has built on the strengths of the preceeding versions, though visually the 2015 vehicle may represent the biggest change yet.
Immediately evident is that the spare wheels have been relocated from the back of the car. One wheel now fits under the cockpit, with one each mounted on the sides behind the doors. This has shifted the significant mass (120 kg) of the wheels to an area within the axles, and also lowered the center of gravity as a result.
'NEW BAKKIE IS MUCH FASTER'
De Villiers comments on the new layout: “You can really feel a massive difference. The new bakkie is much faster through twisty sections, and we’ve also worked a lot on the suspension to make it land better after jumps.”
The change in layout came largely due to new regulations, which allow the Imperial Toyota Hilux to be 60kg lighter than before. In order to fully capitalise on this reduction in weight, the team decided to also maximise weight distribution for better handling and balance.
In addition to the weight saving, the regulations now also allow for a slightly larger air restrictor. This was done in an effort to level the playing field for the various different engine types that essentially compete in the same class – notably the turbo diesels that suffer less at high altitudes and in thick sand than the normally aspirated petrol engines, such as the motor used in the Imperial Toyota Hilux, do.
At the same time, the new Imperial Toyota Hilux features a fully South African-developed suspension system, a new air conditioning system and many other refinements to the original race bakkie.
All of this will be put to the test when Dakar 2015 gets under way in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 4 January 2015. The route consists of a trans-continental loop, which visits Chile and Bolivia, before returning to Argentina for the finish back in Buenos Aires on 17 January.
Stay with Wheels24 for daily coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally.
South African Dakar fans can follow the fortunes of the Toyota Imperial South Africa Dakar Team on Facebook and on Twitter or on www.motorsport.toyota.co.za