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Toyota gets tougher for Dakar


BY NOW, we all know the tale of two underdog South African-built bakkies that took on the toughest off-road motorsport event the world has ever seen, the Dakar.

These two bakkies lined up on the starting line, along with 440 or so other competitors, and set off to face the harsh conditions that would push them, and their drivers, to the limit.

I remember being upset about the fact that numerous international sources kept referring to the Dakar Hilux as underdeveloped compared to the rest of the machines out there. These ‘underdeveloped’ bakkies soon got their own back and are now considered to be fierce opponents to the already established competitors.

Giniel de Villiers stunned the crowd by crossing the finish line in third place and proved it wasn’t a fluke by claiming second place this year. Could this be a two-year-long countdown to a Dakar victory? I certainly hope so…

De Villiers is once again back in the driving seat, supported by his long-time navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz. They will be joined in another Dakar Hilux by Toyota racers Leeroy Poulter (driver) and navigator Rob Howie. Aged 32, Leeroy Poulter has crammed an amazing 26 years of active motorsport experience into his life. His motorsport experience began on two wheels in age-group motocross championships in 1986.
“The Hilux has shown its mettle in the past two Dakar rallies and have mounted a strong charge for the top of the podium. We believe the youthful energy of Leeroy and the experience of Giniel will combine to make a strong team in 2014,” says Calvyn Hamman, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Toyota South Africa Motors.

Construction on two all-new racing Hilux 4x4s is already underway, but the team is set to return to the Namib Desert near Walvis Bay this week for four days of testing with the 2013 Hilux in which De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz finished in second place.
The team will again enjoy the backing of Toyota South Africa Motors and South African companies Imperial Toyota Group, Duxbury Netgear, the Innovation Group and Toyota Financial Services.

“The Dakar Rally is a huge challenge and we must be realistic about our chances of winning,” said team principal Glyn Hall. “Just to complete the 8 500km route through two countries over 14 days, with its 13 timed special stages, is an achievement. We are very proud of our podium finishes in the last two events and we will be aiming to finish on the podium again. A win would be a great reward for the whole team and for its sponsors.”

The 2014 Dakar Rally starts in Rosario in Argentina on 5 January and ends in the Chilean city of Valparaiso on January 18.

As an added bonus to the South African public, the South African Dakar team’s announcement coincided with the launch of a special-edition of the Toyota Hilux.

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