Team Imperial Toyota concluded its maiden foray into the Dakar Rally achieving exactly what it set out to do: clinching a podium position.
South African driver Giniel de Villiers and his German codriver, Dirk von Zitzewitz, on January 15 took third spot in their number 301 Hilux, while fellow South Africans Duncan Vos and Rob Howie ended the race eleventh in their number 313 sister car.
The team boss for this year’s event was former rally champion and top motorsport manager, 54-year-old Glyn Hall, who has been on five Dakar Rallies.
“We will have to do really well to finish on the podium,” noted De Villiers at the end of last year. “We have a competitive car, which means we have a good chance to do this – if everything goes okay.
“To be on the podium as part of the top five is a realistic result. This is the first time Toyota enters this team in the Dakar. Winning it is a tall order.”
The final stage was a 26 km run through the desolation of the Atacama desert, before running into Lima, Peru, on a highway lined with thousands of enthu- siastic spectators.
In Lima, crews were routed to the city square, where they had the opportunity to drive onto and stop on a raised podium in front of a large number of motorsport fans.
Toyota Motorsport’s two Hilux V8 double-cab pick-ups, backed by Imperial Toyota, Duxbury Netgear and Innovation Group, formed part of a fleet of 171 cars, 185 motorcycles, 76 trucks and 33 quads, which, on January 1, started out to complete the 8 500 km, three-country South American race.
The bakkies the local team used to conquer this terrain were based on the production version of the vehicle that rolls off the Toyota assembly line, in Durban, and incorporated many standard Hilux components, such as the double wishbone front suspension and beam rear axle. However, some modifications were made to ensure the vehicles could cope with the extreme conditions they were to encounter in the South American deserts and mountain ranges.
Hall has publicly expressed the hope that the 2012 Dakar will be the first of three Dakar races for the South African team.
The 2012 Dakar Rally was won by Stéphane Peterhansel, in his tenth victory, this time in a MINI All4 Racing.