Toyota Motorsport has won the first 2013 Dakar Rally battle by meeting the South African Airways deadline last Friday for delivery of the two Imperial Toyota Hilux double cab pickups that will contest the nearly 9 000-kilometre 15-day marathon race in South America in January.
SAA flew the precious cargo, together with six tons of spare parts and equipment, in one of its Airbus passenger jets to Buenos Aires in Argentina on Sunday. From there the cargo will be trucked to Lima in Peru, where the 34th Dakar Rally starts on January 5. It finishes in Santiago in Chile on January 20.
“It’s been a wild ride already,” said a relieved Glyn Hall, Toyota Motorsport boss and manager of the Toyota Imperial South Africa Team that will travel to South America. “Once the official announcement was made in July that Toyota Motorsport would return to contest the Dakar Rally in 2013 and also for the following two years, we’ve been flat-out preparing for this greatest challenge in off road competition.
“At the same time we’ve been competing in the Absa South African Off Road Championship with the two Dakar Hilux 4x4s in which we took third (Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz) and 10th places (Duncan Vos and Rob Howie) at our first attempt in this year’s Dakar. We’ve built a brand new evolution Dakar Hilux for Giniel and Dirk to meet the latest regulations and take advantage of everything we’ve learned so far. We’ve also fitted in five days of testing in the sand dunes of the Namib Desert as well as a number of shorter test outings closer to home base at Kyalami.
“We were obviously better prepared this time after having gone through the whole exercise last year and this, together with the extra time we’ve had, has even allowed us to build two customer Hilux 4x4s for Team Overdrive in Belgium in addition to providing them with five kits to build their own vehicles under licence to us. They will be running four of their SA-built Toyotas in the 2013 Dakar,” Hall added.
Rob Howie wears several hats in the team. Apart from being co-driver to Vos in both the national championship (which he and Vos won) and the Dakar, he is Hall’s right-hand man, chief fabricator and oversaw the packing and handover to SAA. He probably has the distinction of being the only co-driver in the Dakar who built and packed his own race vehicle.
“The pressure has been huge over the past few months and increased in the run up to delivery to SAA. We’ve been working 24/7 these past few weeks to achieve this. We’ve had to partially disassemble the race vehicles so they can fit on individual pallets in the passenger cargo hold of the SAA Airbus. We’ve also had to individually wrap all the larger spare components and pack hundreds of boxes of smaller spares and equipment for stowage in a three SAA containers,” explained Howie.
“Now we have a couple of weeks off to spend with our families over Christmas before we fly to Lima on December 28.”
The team will be reassembling the vehicles at Toyota Peru’s premises in Lima and repacking the spares and equipment into three support trucks, before a pre-race test and shakedown in sand dunes 100 kilometres away on December 31. The race vehicles will then be prepared for official scrutineering in Lima on January 4 before the rally starts there the next day.
STORY BY TOYOTA