Motorsport

Interview: A perfect job needed for the Toyota Hilux to win Dakar 2019

World’s toughest endurance race and world’s toughest bakkie. TopGearSA sits with team principle Glyn Hall and the rest of the team at Hallspeed between winning in Morocco and preparations for Dakar 2019.

Following last year’s Dakar, how have preparations been going?

We had a real tough time by the failure of Bernhard’s engine on the second to last stage which cost us another car finishing in the top 4. Toyota engines don’t fail so there had to be a really good reason. When we took the engine out there was so much damage that it was difficult to see where it started. What made it harder to understand was when we stripped Giniel’s and Nasser’s engine they were almost like brand new. Nasser’s displayed slight wear which gave us a hint because we had taken that engine to Spain and run it in really cold conditions just before the Dakar as a PR activity.

To cut a long story short, after months of very careful analysis we found that the engine was running too cold and therefore the oil had become too thick. Sounds easy but it consumed us with months of drama. Now every car that’s out there – 25 in total including privateers – has the new engine update.

There were plans to use the new turbo petrol engine for this year’s Dakar?

We have the engine, we got permission from Toyota in Japan but in April this year the FIA decided against it.

Why?

They said the balance of performance between diesel and petrol is already causing so much controversy so to introduce a third variable is more difficult. Coupled to the fact that BMW (after one and a half years of discussing this) suddenly said in November they would not be able to manage the boost accurately (on their turbo diesel engine) with the FIA’s proposed, single box control system. So that threw a massive spanner in the works.

Do you believe there are other factors at play?

It just highlighted again to us that ‘free’ boost in the diesel and bigger restrictor are all massive advantages for BMW. We think it’s a political move by BMW rather than a practical one. There were some basic numbers put out by FIA and BMW saw these numbers and would mean less boost than they’re running now, although with the new proposed system there would be no restrictors, the power only controlled by boost and Lambda, we thought this was a good and fair proposal

And the work on the new Hilux hasn’t stopped

In parallel to all this we repaired some cracks on the chassis, which is expected because of the reduced weight. We made the driving position more comfortable by lowering the position of the drivers’ feet by 100mm, which meant a complete new floor mould and changes to the chassis and built a new cooling system from the production Toyota Hilux radiator technology. Front and rear differentials work under better cooling, plus a new engine spec which Nasser used in Morocco.

Is the data looking good?

Yep the data looks better. We just won in Morocco quite convincingly. Nasser is extremely happy; he said he’s never driven a new car where there’s nothing to do. We know we are faster compared to last year and that we need to do a perfect job in order to challenge for the win in Dakar 2019.

Are there new regulations for 2019?

The disappointing news is that engine restrictor size for the Toyota and in fact all cars with Multivalve petrol engines is down by 1mm to 37mm – that’s 5% less engine performance. The FIA’s reason was that MINI was so far off the mark last year that it would be unfair to leave our restrictor size at 38mm this year [ the same size as the Diesel] . The study from last year showed that Toyota was slightly faster at sea level, but  slower at altitude while the  acceleration through the sand at all altitudes compared to the Peugeots was even. So a bit disappointing to say the least that we have less power for 2019

There is a lot of very fine sand in Peru on this year’s route with no tracks to follow. Is that a concern?

Navigation will be critical but the road book was very good last year. We did test in Upington South Africa with BF Goodrich earlier in the year and the solution we found was very good. So this means we will have a faster tyre in the sand for 2019, I hope this balances the loss in power we will suffer due to the smaller restrictor.

MINI underperformed last year but now they have a strong driver line-up. What are your expectations from Toyota’s main rivals?

They can only be better than last year. They lost their top 4×4 driver with Nani after 2 days and all 2-wheel drive cars had problems. In Morocco this year they’ve shown signs of Peugeot-type speed but they had some technical issues and teething troubles. But when they were running well, they looked fast and their drivers (from Peugeot) know what’s needed.

Did you ever consider developing the Toyota buggy concept for 2019 Dakar?

You really have to dedicate a lot of time to the idea. Mechanical components like gearboxes in the buggies are very complex things and expensive to have the proper solution. The one in last year’s Peugeot cost considerably more than ours plus the front and rear diffs together. The buggies are much more fragile because they are lighter. So this means they need more resources and more parts changed during the race.

What is your view of the route compared to last year?

From a purist’s point of view it’s perfect; all in one country mostly in the dunes with a few gravel road sections, maybe. The average altitude is lower but then our restrictor size is smaller, yet again. We have three good drivers in the dunes and Nasser is widely regarded as the king of the dunes, and in testing we find Giniel is right there.

A new curved ball will be Lobe competing in a Peugeot under the PH sport banner, he will be supported by Red Bull and I can guarantee that the team will be fully motivated to provide Loeb with a very good car, and I can’t imagine Peugeot standing back and letting their driver compete in anything that is not at least as good as was entered in the last Dakar. All this came very late following Peugeot withdrawal from WRX last week, Loeb proved again last weekend that he is one of the all-time greats by winning WRC Spain after a 4 year layoff. Seb Loeb is without question brilliant and he has a point to prove which will be dangerous for all his competitors. Andrew Leopold

 

 

 

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