Published on January 4th, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
TOYOTA’s CHALLENGE IN 2014 DAKAR RALLY
What do you do for an encore after finished third and then second in the Dakar Rally? If you’re Toyota, whose core business principles include continuous improvement, you aim for first and what would be a momentous victory, not only for Toyota but also for South Africa. After finishing third in Toyota South Africa Motors’ first attempt at the world’s longest and toughest motorsport event in 2012 and second this year, the Toyota Imperial South Africa Team will attempt to win the 35th running of the Dakar Rally in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile in January 2014 in what would be a major coup for South African motorsport.
Carrying the hopes of all South African sport fans will be 2009 winners and 2013 runners-up Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz and Dakar rookie Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, who navigated Duncan Vos to 10th place in 2012. They will be at the wheels of two new racing Toyota Imperial Hilux V8 4x4s designed and built by Toyota Motorsport South Africa and currently nearing completion in their workshop in Johannesburg.
“The Dakar is a huge challenge and we must be realistic about our chances of winning,” said team principal Glyn Hall. “Just to complete the 8 500-kilometre 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. We’ve all worked very hard so far to achieve this objective and we have a new Hilux to help us do it. A win would be a great reward for the whole team and for its sponsors.”
“Everything we’ve learnt in the past two Dakars and in every test we’ve completed – like our week in the Namib Desert – we’ve built into our new car. We tested a lot of new things in Namibia, things that were quite different to what we did preparing for this year’s Dakar.”
For Dakar Rally veterans De Villiers (41) and Von Zitzewitz (45), a German but considered by the team to be an honorary South African, it will be the 11th time each of them has competed in the event, with De Villiers at the wheel of a car on each occasion and Von Zitzewitz once on a motorcycle (he was rookie of the year when he finished fifth in 1997) and 10 times as a co-driver.
For Poulter (33), more used to being a front runner in the national rally championship in a Castrol Team Toyota Yaris, it will be a once in a lifetime first appearance in the big daddy of all off road races, while Howie (40) will be navigating his way across South America for the third year in a row. Poulter, like De Villiers, is one of South Africa’s most versatile motor sportsmen, having won national championships in motocross, karting and circuit production car racing as well as boasting a national rally class championship and world karting championships.
The 2014 Dakar Rally starts in Rosario in Argentina on January 5 and ends in the Chilean city of Valparaiso on January 18. There will be seven special stages in Argentina as well as a rest day in Salta on January 11. Chile will host six special stages. The motorcycle competitors will also have a marathon stage and an overnight stop in Bolivia.