With less than a month to go before the start of next year’s gruelling Dakar Rally, preparations are well under way for teams and drivers to tackle what is considered to be the longest and toughest race on the planet.
Nine South Africans will be flying our flag, with the event starting in Rosario, Argentina on 5 January and ending in the Chilean city of Valparaiso on 18 January.
Carrying the hopes of local sports fans will be 2009 winners and 2013 runners-up Giniel de Villiers and his German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, in an all-new Toyota Hilux V8 4x4.
In the second ‘works’ Hilux cockpit will be Dakar rookie Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, who navigated Duncan Vos to 10th place in the 2012 Dakar.
DAKAR CHALLENGER WINNERS
The third South African Toyota entry is that of Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, who will compete privately in the same Hilux in which Vos finished 10th in the 2012 Dakar - the same one that took Vos to victory in the 2012 South African Cross Country championship.
It will be Rundle and Mohr’s first attempt at the Dakar, which is the result of a prize (valued at R400 000) the pair received after winning the Dakar Challenge that formed part of the Toyota Botswana 1000 Desert Race in June.
Ford SA will for the first time be entering two locally-built Rangers in the Dakar. One will be crewed by South Africans Chris Visser and navigator Japie Badenhorst. The pair won the 2011 South African Cross Country championship, and this will be their first Dakar attempt.
In the cockpit of the other SA-built Ranger will be Argentinean pairing Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue, who have three Dakar rallies behind them with a best finish of fifth in 2012.
Two South Africans, Riaan van Niekerk and Brett Cummings, will be taking on the rally on KTM off-road motorcycles.
The factory Toyota team has confirmed that it’s already a race against the clock, with about six tons of spares and equipment, along with the team’s partially disassembled Hilux 4x4s, scheduled for delivery by the end of this week for the flight over to Argentina.
“We have to take absolutely everything we need to look after the two race vehicles,” said team principal Glyn Hall.
“That means spares for virtually every component of each of the two Hiluxes - about 4000 individual items. There’s also a lot of paperwork involved, including customs clearance for leaving and returning to South Africa as well as for our passage through the two South American countries.”
The 35th running of the Dakar Rally is also its sixth successive running in South America, and in 2014 will snake through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Bolivia is a first on the schedule, marking the Dakar’s further exploration of the Andes regions.
The arduous route runs a total distance of 8500km over 14 days, with 13 timed special stages. Crews can expect seven special stages in Argentina, a rest day in Salta on 11 January and six more stages in Chile.
For more information, and to follow this ultimate test of man and machine, visit the Dakar Rally website. - Star Motoring
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