The Toyota Hilux that will compete in the 2013 Dakar Rally will be a completely different beast from the bakkie that clinched third spot in the 2012 event.
Toyota Motorsport team principal Glyn Hall says South African driver Giniel de Villiers and his German co-pilot, Dirk von Zitzewitz, will be driving a new car, with a lower centre of gravity and improved sand performance.
Tested on Namibia’s dunes already, the improved performance on sand comes mainly from a new 5 l engine delivering more than 570 Nm of torque, versus the 4.6 l engine used in 2012, at roughly 510 Nm of torque.
Hall says the extra torque “helps a lot with the performance on sand. When you want to power a car up a 300 m dune, there is no substitute for torque”.
He believes new engine regulations at Dakar 2013, again to be held in South America, will serve as a great equaliser in next year’s rally, as teams must now use production-type engines.
The X-raid Team’s Mini, in which Stéphane Peterhansel in 2012 secured his tenth Dakar victory, sported a prototype engine, and not a production-type engine, says Hall.
“So, Mini will have less performance, and we will have more. Maybe we will meet each other in the middle.”
The second biggest change to De Villiers’ new Hilux is that it is wider.
“When we redesigned the chassis, we explored the regulations some more, and put more structural components lower, thereby lowering the vehicle’s centre of gravity. This also gained us an extra 100 mm (width) inside the cab,” explains Hall.
The new Hilux will also feature new designed-and-made-in-South-Africa lightweight carbon-fibre doors, as opposed to the steel doors used in 2012.
The second Hilux to compete as part of the South African Dakar team will also feature these doors. This vehicle will again be driven by the team of Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, who were tenth overall in the 2012 event.
While De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz gain a new car, Vos and Howie will compete in an upgraded Hilux, featuring a revised suspension, more lightweight parts and a bigger engine.
NEW RACE, NEW TARGET
As Hall and his team have achieved their 2012 ambition of clinching a podium position, the aim over the next three years is now to “try and win this race”, says the Dakar team principal.
Toyota Motorsport announced earlier this year that Imperial Toyota, a member of the JSE-listed Imperial Holdings, had agreed to back the Imperial Hilux team for the next three years, covering the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Dakar Rally, thereby expanding on its 2012 support. The co-sponsors Innovation Group and Duxbury Netgear have also again offered their support.
“If we can improve on last year’s unbelievable performance, we would be very happy,” notes Hall.
He adds, however, that the team is still looking for one last sponsorship partner in order to “meet its budget requirements”.
When looking at the 2013 Dakar Rally, the South African Imperial Hilux team will be facing a number of challenges quite different to the 2012 race.
The 2013 race will start in Lima, Peru, and not Argentina. This also means it will not start out on gravel, but will almost immediately hit some “pretty big dunes”, says Hall.
He says this means it will be a different rally altogether, with bigger gaps likely from the start of the race. It will also place some pressure on the drivers, as dune riding is the most technical part of the rally.
“Navigation is also tricky, as you do not follow a track, but a compass.”
Dakar 2013 starts on January 5, and ends on January 20 in Santiago, Chile.
The South African team will comprise 21 people.