Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa (SA) has wrapped up Dakar 2016 with a third place in the gruelling South American event.
The race was won by Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), with Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini) in second place.
The 2016 race was the second consecutive podium finish for Dakar veterans Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, who finished in second place last year.
Since switching to the Toyota Hilux, the pair have finished second (2012), third (2013), fourth (2014), second again (2015), and now third.
“This is a clear testimony of the ability of the Toyota Hilux to perform at the very highest levels of competition,” said ecstatic team principal Glyn Hall at the end of the 9 597-km-long race.
"Not only that, but it also underlines the fact that we have an extremely consistent crew in Giniel and Dirk.”
Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, racing in the second Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, finished fifth in Dakar 2016, which is Poulter’s best result yet, having finished 33rd in his first Dakar (2014) and 16th in the 2015 edition of the race.
“We are very happy with this year's race. The only disappointment was losing out on the stage win in stage 12, but other than that we have every reason to be pleased,” said Poulter after driving his Toyota Hilux over the finish line in Rosario, Argentina, on Saturday.
The pair led for more than five hours during stage 12 of the race, but lost out on their first stage victory as a corner, obscured by the dust of a slower competitor, caused them to veer off the road.
For Yazeed al Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk in the third Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, Dakar 2016 held more challenges than they had anticipated, with the pair finishing in 11th spot.
The team caused quite a stir with their raw pace in 2015, running in third place until stage 11, when they were forced to retire.
This year they lost a significant amount of time on stage 10 after losing a wheel on their vehicle.
“To me, the fact that all three of our factory Toyota Hilux race vehicles completed the race, is fantastic,” said Hall. “But to have two of them in the top ten, and Yazeed in 11th, is a great achievement. We have every reason to be proud of our car, and the lads that drove them to such stunning finishing positions.”
The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux is designed and built at Toyota Motorsport’s facility at Hallspeed, near the Kyalami racing circuit in Midrand.
Almost identical versions of these vehicles also compete in the South African National Cross-Country Championship.