PREPPING FOR WORLD'S MOST DEMANDING RALLY: The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux Evo seen taking on the terrain during a test period. Image: Quickpic
Johaannesburg - The brand new Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux Evo enjoyed its first test session recently, when Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz put the revolutionary two-wheel-drive vehicle through its paces at a location in the Northwest Province of South Africa. It was the first real-world test for the Toyota Hilux Evo, and the initial results were highly encouraging.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall said: "It is always exciting to put a completely new concept to the test, and the Toyota Hilux Evo is just such a concept. Now that we've had a chance to see it in action over terrain that matches certain parts of the Dakar, we are highly encouraged."
The new vehicle is a departure from Toyota Gazoo Racing SA's proven four-wheel-drive vehicles, which have attained spectacular results on the Dakar Rally over the past five years.
As its name suggests, the Toyota Hilux Evo, represents the next evolution of Dakar racing for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, and will allow the team to compete on a more even footing that ever before.
"Man, it's quick!"
The first test was aimed at validating the design, more than developing the vehicle further. As such, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz tested the Toyota Hilux Evo over a number of different terrain types, and always came back with positive feedback.
De Villiers at the completion of the test session said: "The new vehicle is significantly faster over the rough stuff.
"Granted, it takes some getting used to, and it certainly doesn't feel the same as the four-wheel-drive. But man, it is quick!"
The Toyota Hilux Evo has a target weight that is nearly 600kgs lighter than the current race vehicle, and even though attaining that target is nearly impossible, the new vehicle will certainly have a significantly better power-to-weight ratio.
Hall said: "Now that we've proven the concept, we'll go back and refine the vehicle as much as possible.
"We've got a lot of data on the dampers and settings from the four-wheel-drive, so we're not starting from scratch. With that said, we'll need a lot more testing before we ship the vehicles off to South America in December."
In the meantime, the fabrication crew is constructing two more Toyota Hilux Evos at the team's HQ in Barbeque Downs, near the Kyalami Racetrack in Gauteng. These vehicles will be allocated to Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie; as well as the team's latest signings, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel.