When those laaties in the television commercial were boasting about whose dad’s Toyota Hilux was “tougherer”, little did they realise the bakkie might one day lay claim to an even bigger bragging right. Being “fasterer” than a helicopter! On gravel nogal…
While this honour might not belong to the standard production model standing on showrooms floors countrywide, Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s racing version of the bakkie still goes by the name of Hilux.
Our video footage taken onboard a helicopter at the recent 1 000 Desert cross-country race around Upington shows racer Henk Lategan pull clear and then maintain his lead over the chopper. The defending national cross-country champion was going at the racing Toyota Hilux’s top speed, which is limited to 180 km/h. While the Robinson R44 four-seater helicopter’s cruising airspeed is rated at 200 km/h, pilot Riaan de Jager could only reach around 160 km/h due to a headwind.
The vastly experienced De Jager, who helped plot and plan the 1 000 Desert’s route, admitted he was helpless in trying to make his chopper go any faster to catch up with the Toyota Hilux.
It was an impressive debut for the brand-new 3.5-litre V6 engine that was given a trial by fire in Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings’ car, who finished the race second behind Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century buggy.
They were the only Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGRSA) crew to use the engine in Upington, with the other three still running the 5.0-litre V8 powerplant that Nasser Al-Attiyah won the Dakar Rally with in 2019.
For more information on the TGRSA crews that competed at Dakar 2021, click here.
The new V6 engine, that also does duty in the highly-anticipated Land Cruiser 300, is also expected to make its debut for TGRSA at next year’s Dakar. Come January the helicopter brigade filming the Dakar in Saudi Arabia should be better prepared. For now, it’s Toyota Hilux 1, chopper 0.