Toyota Gazoo Racing SA to contest Dakar 2024 with three new crews as Al-Attiyah bows out

15th November 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA to contest Dakar 2024 with three new crews as Al-Attiyah bows out

The South African-built GR DKR Hilux T1+

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa (TGR SA) will field three crews at the 2024 Dakar Rally, with all three drivers hailing from South Africa. 

Former TGR SA star and Dakar 2023 overall winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah has left the Toyota stable after seven years and will join Prodrive in 2024.

Henk Lategan, who placed fifth this year, is also set to miss Dakar 2024 owing to a shoulder injury he sustained during the penultimate round of the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC). 

Lategan has undergone surgery on his shoulder and will not be healed in time for the upcoming Dakar Rally, which takes place early in January next year.

All three TGR SA 2024 crews will be powered by the South African-built GR DKR Hilux T1+, which claimed top spot in 2022 and 2023. 

The most experienced member of the new-look team is Giniel de Villiers, who will again partner with Dennis Murphy

The pairing placed fourth at Dakar 2023.

De Villiers, a former Dakar champion, has 20 Dakar starts to his name, and has only finished outside the top ten once.

For Dakar 2024, De Villiers will also have Guy Botterill as a teammate. Botterill hails from Durban and is a race winner in the SARRC.

Dakar 2024 will be his first attempt at the event, but with Lategan side-lined, Botterill will have the experienced Brett Cummings as his co-driver.

The final member of the South African trio in TGR's Dakar team is also the youngest. 

Eighteen-year-old Sa’ood Variawa will be racing alongside experienced French co-driver, Francois Cazalet

After cutting his teeth in the local Global Touring Car championship, Variawa is looking to make the jump to the ‘sandy stuff’. 

He is the son of Shameer Variawa, who contested the Dakar Rally with TGR in 2021 and 2022, finishing 20th and 15th respectively.

Shameer is also the new owner of Hallspeed, which develops TGR SA’s racing cars.

The 12-stage Dakar event will start on January 5 in the northern Saudi city of Alula. 

From there, the route will wind its way through the sands of Saudi Arabia, before doubling back for the finish at the coastal city of Yanbu.