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The road to Dakar 2018: Meet Toyota SA drivers

2017-11-14 15:06

Image: Motorpress

Cape Town - The first-ever FIA World Rally Cross (WRX) event held in Cape Town was a roaring success. The race, the final on the 12-race calendar for 2017, was won by Johan Kristoffersson after duelling and battling for victory.

Toyota South Africa also used the opportunity to announce their driver line-up that will partake in the 2018 Dakar rally. The drivers and navigators will participate in three Hilux bakkies, specially designed and built for the 2018 edition of the race. Toyota SA says that it has been working on its  2018 challenger for the past 18 months and that every part used on the bakkie is entirely new.

Attempt at glory

On the drivers’ front, local legend and 2009 Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers will lead team Toyota Gazoo Racing’s charge at glory in 2018. De Villiers, a multiple champion, has won numerous rallies across South Africa. He is also the South African Cross Country champion for 2017. De Villiers will be partnered by regular navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz.

Joining the South African in the second Hilux is Nasser Al-Attiyah who will be driving in his second season for Toyota Gazoo Racing. The Qatari is also no stranger to the Dakar and has won the rally on two occasions: in 2011 and 2015. His navigator is Mathieu Baumel.The third driver-navigator pairing is Bernard ten Brinke and Michel Périn. Ten Brinke is an entrepreneur in his home country of the Netherlands, but has been racing since 2004. He made is Dakar debut in 2012 and finished in eighth place overall. In 2015 he was seventh. This year will be the first race with Toyota Gazoo Racing for both Ten Brinke and Périn.

For the past year Toyota Gazoo Racing has been hard at work to produce and bring forth a competitive vehicle to take on the mighty Peugeot team. Their recent spate of preparations took place in Upington where the team tested various parts of their vehicles for the upcoming race. The Dakar is the world’s most gruelling endurance race, testing both man and machine in some of the world’s most inhospitable conditions. Sporting a big 5.0-litre V8 engine and rear-wheel drive, Toyota Gazoo Racing will be hoping its Dakar-specified Hilux will halt Peugeot in what will be the defending champion’s last Dakar.

The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally kicks off on January 6 and will run until the 20th. 

Dakar 2018: Crew line-up

Driver: Giniel De Villiers #304

De Villiers has become a household name in many parts of the world, thanks mainly to his victory in the 2009 Dakar Rally. However, the quiet Stellenbosch racer has also notched up numerous championships in a wide variety of racing disciplines, including the 2017 South African Cross-Country Series title. De Villiers has raced in 14 Dakars to date, and only finished outside the Top Ten on one occasion (2007, due to an engine fire). He has recorded seven podium finishes on the Dakar Rally, four of those behind the wheel of a South African Toyota Hilux.

Navigator: Dirk von Zitzewitz

Von Zitzewitz first started navigating for Giniel de Villiers in 2007, though his Dakar record stretches back to 1997, when he first took park on a motorcycle. He finished fifth in his debut year, and seventh in 1998. The next edition saw him record several stage victories, though he failed to complete the event. He then turned his hand to navigation, partnering with Americans Mark Miller and Robby Gordon, before teaming up with De Villiers. The pair won the 2009 Dakar Rally, and have remained together ever since.

#301
Driver: Nasser Al Attiyah

The world of cross-country racing has been dominated by Al Attiyah for the last three years, as the Qatari star won the FIA’s Cross-Country World Cup in 2015, 2016 and 2017 – the last two behind the wheel of a South African Toyota Hilux. He has won the Dakar Rally twice, most recently in 2015 (MINI), and has also competed in the World Rally Championship, Complete World Touring Car Championship and a multitude of other global race series. The affable racer is also an accomplished Skeet Shooter, and won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Navigator: Mathieu Baumel

French navigator Mathieu Baumel has partnered with Al Attiyah on many occasions, and have notched up two FIA Cross-Country World Cup titles with the Qatari superstar. Baumel, who hails from Manosque in France’s Luberon region, specializes in cross-country racing as well as rallying, and recorded his first title in the Dakar Challenge of 2005. Since then, he has notched up six championships in a variety of disciplines, including the 2015 Dakar Rally, WRC2 class of the World Rally Championship and the FIA World Cup.

#309
Driver: Bernard Ten Brinke

Sports fanatic Bernard ten Brinke hails from the Dutch town of Zeddam, where he was born on 6 September 1977. The experienced businessman owns an established kitchen company in the Netherlands, but his true passion lies with sport – and more specifically, motorsport. Ten Brinke has been racing since 2004, cutting his teeth on the Renault Clio Sport Cup circuit, before adding rallying to his experience in 2009.

He made his Dakar debut in 2012, finishing in a highly credible eighth place, with navigator Mathieu Baumel beside him. In 2014 Ten Brinke joined Overdrive Racing, and significantly expanded his cross-country racing experience the following year. Ten Brinke finished Dakar 2015 in seventh overall, suffered a DNF in 2016 and focused on his rallying in 2017, missing out on the Dakar Rally as a result.

Navigator: Michel Perin

Ten Brinke is partnered with French navigator Michel Périn for Dakar 2018; a giant in motorsport, having started his career as a professional navigator in 1984. Périn won the French Rally Championship as navigator in 1988, 1989 and 1990, after which he switched to cross-country racing with Pierre Lartigue.

The pair triumphed on the Dakar Rallies of 1994, 1995 and 1996, and also won the FIA Cross-Country World Cup four times in a row. After a brief stint as team manager for Citroën, Périn returned to the cockpit partnering drivers Guerlain Chicherit, Bruno Saby, Carlos Sainz, Nani Roma and most recently Mikko Hirvonen. Dakar 2018 will be Périn’s first outing with Ten Brinke.

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