Toyota South Africa has announced its team destined to compete at the Dakar 2018. Toyota stalwart and former Dakar winner, Giniel de Villiers, will again partner with German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz. The pair last won the world’s most gruelling automotive race in 2009, but have gone on to attain four podium finishes for Toyota.
De Villiers recently clinched the South African Cross-Country Series championship with a round to spare, with navigator Dennis Murphy beside him. The pair won four races on the trot, preserving Toyota’s unbeaten record in the series, which stretches back to 2015.
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz will be joined by Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and French navigator Mathieu Baumel. The pair also raced with Toyota SA at Dakar 2017, winning the opening stage and leading the Dakar before retiring on Stage 3. Al Attiyah and Baumel won their fourth FIA Cross-Country World Cup this year, their third in a Toyota Hilux, and they are looking forward to taking the all-new race vehicle into battle on Dakar 2018.
Al Attiyah said: "The Toyota Hilux has a reputation for reliability and durability. This new version is sure to take all the best characteristics of the previous model, and deliver new levels of handling and balance thanks to its innovative design."
The third crew in Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s line-up will be Dutch driver Bernard ten Brinke, who will have French navigator Michel Périn beside him in the Toyota Hilux. Ten Brinke is no stranger to the Dakar Rally, having taken part since 2012. He raced a Toyota Hilux as part of the Overdrive Racing team in 2016, but 2018 will be his first outing as a full works driver.
The three crews will all be driving the all-new Toyota Hilux, which features a mid-engine layout and new suspension geometry. The new car conforms to the latest rules as set out by the FIA, and will race with a 38 mm air restrictor in Dakar 2018.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, said: "The FIA has been working hard to try and balance the performance of the turbodiesel-powered cars and the naturally aspirated V8s, such as ours. This is an ongoing process, and while neither camp will probably ever be entirely happy with the rules, we are confident that the latest changes give us a better shot at Dakar 2018."
The bigger restrictor, 12% increase in suspension travel and lower weight, is sure to play a large role, as Dakar 2018 starts in the big dunes of Peru, where the soft sand will sap the Toyota V8 of power. The race then moves to Bolivia, where the stages take place at extreme altitudes, before finally descending into northern Argentina for the final part of the race. The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally starts in the Peruvian capital of Lima on January 6th, and ends in the Argentine city of Cordoba on January 20th.
Hall said: "The Dakar Rally is undeniably the world’s toughest automotive race. The terrain, temperatures, altitude and navigation all play major roles. But to us it is also the ultimate challenge, and we are looking forward to continuing our quest for glory this coming January."
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