Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s team for Dakar 2019 was announced at the WRX event at the Killarney Raceway in Cape Town today. The three-car team will be fielding the latest evolution of the race-proven Toyota Hilux in South America, when they tackle the world’s most grueling automotive race in January 2019. This builds on a legacy that started in 2012, when Toyota SA Motors first fielded a team at the iconic race.
As has been the case since the first South African Toyota Hilux took on the Dakar in 2012, Giniel de Villiers will be behind the wheel for 2019. He will again partner with German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz for the upcoming Dakar Rally – a race they won together in 2009. Since that victory, the pair have notched up five podium finishes for Toyota, and will be aiming to add to that record in 2019.
De Villiers recently won his second consecutive South African Cross-Country Series title, again with co-driver Dennis Murphy beside him in the Toyota Hilux. Between De Villiers and teammate Henk Lategan, Toyota has maintained an unbeaten race-winning record in the local series since 2015.
As in 2018, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz will have Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel as teammates. The pair have become familiar faces in Toyota Gazoo Racing SA colours, having fielded a South African Toyota Hilux in Dakar 2017 and 2018; as well as the FIA’s World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – a title that the pair has won three times in a row, twice in a Toyota Hilux. Al Attiyah/Baumel also won this year’s Rally of Morocco in a Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, making it five wins in a row on the extremely tough event.
“To me the new version of the Toyota Hilux is probably the best race car I have ever driven,” said Al Attiyah after winning in Morocco. “It can handle the tough stuff without any problems, and it just keeps getting better with each evolution.”
The third crew in this year’s Dakar line-up will again be the flying Dutchman, Bernhard ten Brinke. Partnered with Michel Périn in 2018, the man from Holland proved his mettle by running in the Top 5 throughout the event, the revelation of the 2018 edition. The pair also won the fearsome stage at Fiambala – one of the toughest tests on recent Dakars – showing just how good Ten Brinke is. But in a cruel twist of fate, a rare engine problem, on the penultimate stage of the race, stole their thunder. Now Ten Brinke is back, with a new co-driver beside him.
“Michel was excellent in the car, and he really helped me to go as fast as possible,” said Ten Brinke of the change. “But he has decided to retire from racing, and I’m excited to have Xavier Panseri beside me this time.”
Panseri (France) is no stranger to racing, having done duty mainly in rally cars over the years. He also competed in Dakar 2015 with Polish superstar Krzysztof Holowczyc, finishing the race in third place overall.
All three crews will be fielding the latest evolution of the Toyota Hilux, which saw a major revamp for Dakar 2018. The car was updated with a mid-engine layout and new suspension geometry for that race, and has been refined through testing throughout the year.
“The SACCS serves as our main test bed during the year, and the data that is gathered by our two crews during the six-round championship is invaluable to our Dakar efforts,” explains Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “This year we’ve also competed in Qatar and Morocco, and learnt a great deal during these two races.”
While there have been further refinements to the engine, suspension and overall weight of the car during 2018, a key factor for Dakar 2019 will be the size of the air intake restrictor, which has been set at 37mm for the race.
“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,” explains Hall. “This is an ongoing process, and while neither camp will probably ever be entirely happy with the rules, we have no choice but to abide by their rules. The smaller restrictor is sure to count against us somewhat this year, but with the lower altitudes of Peru, we may just have enough grunt to make it work regardless.”
With that said, the bulk of Dakar 2019 is set to take place in soft sand, which tends to sap the Toyota V8 engine of power. On the flip-side, there are no real high-altitude stages planned for 2019, which may help when it comes to overall performance.
The team has also welcomed a new partnership with Dutch oil company Eurol, who has previously supported Bernhard ten Brinke both in the Dakar and on other races. This year, however, all three Toyota Gazoo Racing SA cars will include Eurol branding as part of their overall livery, and the team is proud to be associated with the brand.
The race will start and finish in the Peruvian capital of Lima, with ten stages taking the crews on a massive loop through the southern section of the country, before finishing back in Lima on January 17th, 2019.
“There’s no doubt about the toughness of the Dakar Rally,” concludes Hall. “Even in just one country – Peru – there will be plenty of challenges, including the terrain, navigation and temperatures. But we love a challenge, and relish the opportunity to go for glory come January.”
The 2019 race will be the 41stedition of the Dakar Rally, and over the years the race has visited 29 countries – three in Europe, five in South America and 21 in Africa. It is the second-largest motorsport in the event, eclipsed only by F1. This year will see crews from 54 nations competing, with 523 competitors already registered. This number includes 188 bikes and quads; 103 cars; and 44 trucks. In the end the race will broadcast 1,200 hours of TV across 70 channels in 190 countries, supported by nearly 2,000 accredited journalists.
“The extreme challenges offered by the Dakar Rally remains a great fit for the Toyota Hilux,” says Calvyn Hamman, Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Toyota SA Motors. “The race continually provides us with a platform to showcase the undeniable toughness and reliability of the Toyota Hilux, and we are confident of seeing our crews on the podium on this 41stedition of the race.”