Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Toyota Gazoo Racing: Piecing together 2019 Dakar Rally puzzle

2019 race ‘a monumental challenge, no question about it’ - team principal.

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa has thrown down the gauntlet in their quest for the missing piece of their Dakar Rally puzzle: the overall first place.

Since their debut in 2012, the team has secured three second places and three third places in the cars category and team principal Glyn Hall has made their intentions clear of shedding the bridesmaid tag once and for all in 2019.

COMPLICATED. On the inside the Hilux rally bakkie looks very different to the one in your driveway. Pictures: Jaco van der Merwe

Toyota’s flag bearers will again be former champions Giniel de Villiers and Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, with Dutchman Bernard ten Brinke behind the wheel of their third entry for the race, which will be staged entirely in Peru after Argentina and Bolivia pulled out, and will consist of 10 stages instead of the usual 14.

“We’ve been testing all year for the next Dakar. It’s a really important event for us in Peru and we feel we have a great chance. “We’re missing a first place and there’s big pressure to finish first,” says Hall.

“This is a new car from the last edition and a very different version from the racing Hilux before. “We’ve been able to improve the performance gradually throughout the year.

“In motorsport, as you see in Formula One every weekend, development is never finished. “We are certainly in a better position now to achieve our goal than we were 12 months ago.”

Although Toyota’s chances of breaking their duck was given a boost with the withdrawal of the Peugeot factory team, which produced the winner in the previous three editions of the Dakar, all the main contestants will still take part in next year’s race.

“Stephan Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres have all gone to Mini, while Sebastion Loeb has thrown in the towel. “So the dream team, as they are called, will all be there and we’ll have our hands full,” says Hall.

“But we have our own dream team. Nasser, the king of the dunes, has just won in Morocco, Giniel’s won the Dakar and is also very fast in the dunes and Bernard was the revelation of the Dakar last year and fully committed for 2019.”

Hall is also quietly confident that the Hilux’s natural aspirated 5.0-litre V8 RCF engine will be up for the test this time after having to take the back seat to the turbocharged Peugeot and Mini engines during stages at higher altitude in the past.

“We won’t know until November 30 when the exact route is finalised, but we do know from experience and the geography of the land that the majority of the stages will be below 1 000 feet which will help us,” says Hall.

“The reason the race has been shortened is because it’s so tough. Even though it’s shorter, the race time will probably not be that much different as the stages in the dunes take a long time in extremely soft sand. “It’s going to be a monumental challenge, no question about it.”

Hall admits that the FIA’s new regulation of limiting the restrictor to 37mm for next year’s race did catch them by surprise.

“That means the car only has a 37mm hole to breathe through, which is like sucking through a straw.

“We were a little shocked with the new ruling of the 37mm restrictor, down from 38mm. That 1mm is actually 5% more power,” added Hall.

“But we’ve improved the engine and certainly the car is faster, so we have to put up a brave face and fight it out.”

The 2019 Dakar will start in Lima on January 7 and finish on January 17.

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