SA-BUILT DAKAR DUSTER: Renault's Dakar Duster is built by South African company Thompson Racing. It's powered by a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine from Renault partner Infiniti, producing about 235kW. Image: YouTube
Sao Paulo, Brazil - Renault's is back and ready to take on the Dakar with two South African-built Duster V8s.
Entered by Renault Sport Argentina a “facelifted” Duster will be in the hands of Argentinian off-road hero Emiliano Spataro and Benjamín Lozada, while an older version has been made available for the experienced Frenchman Chris Lavieille, who achieved a sixth place finish this year, and Jean Michel Polato.
The updated Duster incorporates learnings from the 2015 edition when Spataro proved its pace by recording top-three stage times in the top class.
Built in SA
The 2016 Duster was again built by Thompson Racing in South Africa and was shipped to Argentina for testing in late November 2015. Significant changes were made to the front suspension design and the tubular spaceframe chassis has been improved, resulting in a lighter yet stronger car.
The body panels, previously made from fibreglass composite, have now been moulded from carbon-fibred, leading to a total weight saving of about 100kg.
The powertrain now comprises a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine from Renault partner Infiniti, producing approximately 235kW at the wheels.
Six-speed sequential 'box
A longer engine air-intake system and revised electronic engine management means it'll now have more low-end torque than before. It also has a larger radiator and the six-speed sequential gearbox has been moved backwards for improved weight distribution.
The new Duster now also features air conditioning, and refinements have been made to the cabin to reduce fatigue.
Stuart Thompson from Thompson Racing, the Kyalami-based builders of the Duster said: "Our current car was fundamentally very good but in this sport you have to keep on improving otherwise you get left behind.
"Having witnessed the Duster in action this year, I knew which areas we had to work on when we were commissioned to build the car some four months ago. We've addressed all the issues and head to South America feeling quietly confident.”