Lima, Peru - With just a day to go before the start of the 2018 Dakar Rally on Saturday 6 January, South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Glyn Hall’s Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team reckon they’re as ready as they are going to be for the world’s toughest automotive competition.

The three South African-built Hilux racing bakkies have been re-assembled and tested in the dunes to the south of the Peruvian capital, and all the administrative and technical checks required by convenor the Amaury Sports Organisation, are done.

“We’ve been working very hard to get everything ready for the race,” said team principal Hall. “But we’re confident that we’ve brought the best cars to the race that we’ve ever built, and our local test sessions certainly proved it.”

Lead driver Giniel de Villiers, who won the 2009 Dakar in a Volkswagen, agreed.

“There’s no doubt this is the best Hilux we’ve ever fielded on Dakar,” he said after the test. “The car feels quick on all surfaces and, while we don’t know how much the opposition have improved, we’re looking forward to measuring the new car against our competitors.”

With the cars ready to rock ‘n roll, all that remained was to complete the administrative and technical checks - and that means all team members, including the technical crews, and can be quite challenging in certain respects.

The technical checks are not only designed to ensure that all competitors conform to the required safety standards, but also to confirm that all the entries meet the strict rules that govern each class.

“It’s absolutely imperative that all the paperwork is correct and all the boxes are ticked,” said Hall, “so that every member of the team is cleared for Dakar 2018.”

'One day at a time'

The race will start with a ceremonial podium in downtown Lima on Saturday, followed by a liaison section (that means it’s untimed, although you do have to get there in time for your slot on the next timed special stage) to the city of Pisco, where Stage 1 will start and finish.

“We expect a lot of dunes on the first few stages,” said De Villiers. “But they’re at low altitudes, which will suit our naturally aspirated engines, so, we’re confident of a strong start.

“Nevertheless, this is the Dakar, and anything can happen out there - so we’ll take it one day at a time, and hope for a good result.”

IOL Motoring