With the start of the 2016 Dakar Rally coming inexorably closer, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA wrapped up their pre-race testing last week. The purpose of the final test session was to sign off on a number of suspension setups and smaller details, and to lock down the configuration of the latest generation Toyota Hilux for the Dakar.
“Even so, we’ll keep working and refining things until the flag drops for the start of Stage One,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “By their very nature, racing cars are never really finished, but our test session north of Upington was a great success, and accelerated our sign-off process for the race.”
Both Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter clocked up hundreds of additional test kilometers during the session, while De Villiers’ German navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz, also gained valuable knowledge of the latest race car to emerge from Toyota Motorsport’s workshop at Hallspeed.
“The new Hilux is better than its predecessor in every way,” said De Villiers at the end of the test session. “The team has made incredible progress with the car, and I’m feeling very confident at the moment.”
Not only did the race vehicles perform as expected, but they also showed their toughness by completing lap after lap of the challenging test route in temperatures that soared to 45 degrees under the Kalahari sun. The route comprised fast, flat sections; rocky jumps; and soft, sandy dunes – the perfect combination to accurately emulate the conditions found on the Dakar Rally.
De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz will again partner Poulter and Rob Howie for the 2016 Dakar Rally. However, this year also sees the addition of Saudi racing sensation, Yazeed al Rajhi to the team. He has German navigator, Timo Gottschalk, in the car beside him, and the pair completed a short test session of their own in South Africa earlier in November.
“We are excited to see what Yazeed and Timo will do on the race, and our confidence has been bolstered both by the positive feedback from them, as well as our own test session last week,” concluded Hall.
The team will now prepare the race vehicles, spare parts and tons of equipment for shipping to South America. This mammoth task will be concluded by December 8th, 2015, after which the entire team will enjoy a well-deserved break before departing for the Dakar on December 27th.
Once in South America, the race vehicles will be reassembled, support trucks will be packed and prepared, and the crews will conduct one final test session before relocating to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires for the start of the 2016 Dakar Rally.
A total of 42 different Toyota vehicles will be competing in the car category of the 2016 Dakar Rally. While most of them are Toyota Hilux race vehicles, developed and manufactured by Toyota Motorsport South Africa, only the three vehicles entered by Toyota Gazoo Racing SA are part of the official factory entry.
Team Overdrive Racing, an independent operator from Belgium, has a strong driver line-up, and will enter five Toyota Hilux vehicles, one of which is supported by Toyota France.
The event starts on January 2nd, 2016, and concludes in the Argentine city of Rosario on January 16th. In between lie 13 stages, run in Argentina and Bolivia, with a rest day on January 10th in the Argentine city of Salta.