READY TO RACE: The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team has signed off its Hilux after pre-testing for the 2016 Dakar. Image: Quickpic
Johannesburg - Ahead of the start of the 2016 Dakar Rally, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA wrapped its pre-race testing earlier in November.
The purpose of the final test session was to sign off on a number of suspension setups and smaller details, and to lock down the configuration of the latest generation Toyota Hilux for the Dakar.
Toyota SA’s team principal Glyn Hall said: “Even so, we’ll keep working and refining things until the flag drops for the start of Stage 1.
“By their very nature, racing cars are never really finished, but our test session north of Upington was a great success, and accelerated our sign-off process for the race.”
Image gallery: 2016 Dakar Toyota Hilux
Both Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter clocked up hundreds of additional test kilometers during the session, while De Villiers’ German navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz, also gained valuable knowledge of the latest race car to emerge from Toyota Motorsport’s workshop at Hallspeed.
De Villiers said: “The new Hilux is better than its predecessor in every way. The team has made incredible progress with the car, and I’m feeling very confident at the moment.”
Not only did the race vehicles perform as expected, but they also showed their toughness by completing lap after lap of the challenging test route in temperatures that soared to 45 degrees under the Kalahari sun. The route comprised fast, flat sections; rocky jumps; and soft, sandy dunes – the perfect combination to accurately emulate the conditions found on the Dakar Rally.
New addition to the team
De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz will again partner Poulter and Rob Howie for the 2016 Dakar Rally. There's also the addition of Saudi racing sensation, Yazeed al Rajhi to the team. He has German navigator, Timo Gottschalk, in the car beside him, and the pair completed a short test session of their own in South Africa earlier in November.
Hall said: “We are excited to see what Yazeed and Timo will do on the race, and our confidence has been bolstered both by the positive feedback from them, as well as our own test session last week.”
Headed for South America
The team will now prepare its race vehicles, spare parts and tons of equipment for shipping to South America. This huge task will be concluded by December 8 2015, after which the entire team will enjoy a well-deserved break before departing for the Dakar on December 27.
Once in South America, the race vehicles will be reassembled, support trucks will be packed and prepared, and the crews will conduct one final test session before relocating to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires for the start of the 2016 Dakar Rally.
A total of 42 Toyota vehicles will be competing in the car category of the 2016 Dakar Rally. While most of them are Toyota Hilux race vehicles, developed and manufactured by Toyota Motorsport South Africa, only the three vehicles entered by Toyota Gazoo Racing SA are part of the official factory entry.
Team Overdrive Racing, an independent operator from Belgium, has a strong driver line-up, and will enter five Toyota Hilux vehicles, one of which is supported by Toyota France.
The event starts on January 2, 2016, and concludes in the Argentine city of Rosario on January 16. In between lie 13 stages, run in Argentina and Bolivia, with a rest day on January 10 in the Argentine city of Salta.