Toyota Motorsport’s brand new Dakar Rally challenger came through its first shakedown test on rough farm tracks near the Tarlton International Raceway on Sunday.
The latest off-road racing version of South Africa’s best-selling bakkie, the Toyota Hilux, was crewed by current South African off road championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, who finished 10th overall in the 2012 Dakar Rally in South America in an Imperial Hilux.
“We’re very happy and relieved to have completed this initial shakedown of our new racing Hilux,” declared Toyota Motorsport boss Glyn Hall. “It’s the culmination of a great many hours of hard work by a dedicated team of people who’ve been working to tight deadlines.”
A follow-up test is taking place later this week at Tarlton with Giniel De Villiers behind the wheel. De Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, who were third overall in this year’s Dakar Rally in an Imperial Hilux, will crew the evo Hilux in next year’s race while Vos will be in an upgraded version of his 2012 Hilux.
The team will use the final round of the Absa SA Off Road Championship (the Gold 400 in Gauteng on November 23 and 24) to give both Dakar Toyotas a thorough test before they are partially disassembled for shipment to South America.
BETTER SAND PERFORMANCE
“The new Hilux is now probably 80 percent the same as when it finished the Dakar,” said Hall. “The 5-litre version of Toyota’s latest technology standard production V8 engine develops more torque than this year’s 4.6-litre version. This gives better sand performance, but surprisingly makes little difference on gravel. The extra 40kg puts us in a higher weight category, but doesn’t seem to hamper performance too much.
“The rules for Dakar 2013 are more in our favour,” added Hall. “In January we ran to the 2013 rules, with a standard production engine, while our main competitors didn’t, so they enjoyed a power advantage and better weight distribution. This time they will be a lot closer to us and the playing field will be more level.
“Although we’re proud of what we achieved in Dakar 2012, we’ve got to do better in 2013. There are a lot of good teams we have to beat and the competition is very strong. Toyota has committed to a three-year Dakar programme covering 2013 to 2015 and our aim is to win the race during this time.”
The 2013 Dakar rally takes place in Peru, Argentina and Chile from January 5 to 20. -Mercury Motoring