Preview: Toyota’s Hilux V8 at Dakar 2014
All the gear is here and they are ready to go.
The Toyota South Africa Dakar team Hilux V8s have been run-in and 2009 Dakar Rally winners Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in the #302 Hilux will start Sunday’s opening special stage in third place behind former winners Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean Paul Cottret of France in a MINI and Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Lucas Cruz of Spain in another MINI.
Dakar debutant, Leeroy Poulter, partnered by the experienced Rob Howie in the #323 Hilux will start in 23rd position.
Privateers and Dakar rookies Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in Hilux #404, the vehicle in which De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz finished second in the 2013 Dakar Rally, will start 103rd.
Sunday’s racing will mostly be ceremonial with a short (by Dakar standards) 180km special stage, sandwiched between the draining 629km liaison. When been to a few of these South American Dakars, and the liaisons, moving from bivouac to bivouac, is the psychologically draining element, adhering the mandated speed limit, avoiding enthusiastic South Americans with their suicidal driving tactics.
Expectations for the Toyota team are rather massive. Crippling, even. In its debut year, the V8 Hilux finished third, during the 2012 event, run, Toyota later admitted on a lunch-money budget and initiated mere months before the start of the event.
The following year, in 2013, Giniel de Villiers managed a second place, in a race curtailed by flooding towards the end, just as the former winner was closing in on the Mini of Stéphane Peterhansel. There is an arithmetic logic that dictated de Villiers should be driving for an all-out win in 2014.
The V8-powered Hilux has been evolved to a level of excellence by Glyn Hall and his team in Johannesburg, and those logisticians and mechanics accompanying the team are by now seasoned South American Dakar campaigners, a crucial game-on advantage in an environment where things will go wrong and frustrations become a facet of bivouac life.
THE MINI ISSUE
All told, it’s South African V8 double-cab bakkie engineering ingenuity and the subtle, yet substantial, speed of Giniel de Villiers versus the canny Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel’s NASA-rivalling budget.
There is an interesting dynamic at play with Mini at this 2014 Dakar, though. Peterhansel’s the incumbent champion and favourite, yes, but with the noticeably quick, but also notably uncontrollable, Nasser Al-Attiyah as a team mate, Peterhansel will be having to deal with a belligerent challenger from within his own team, which might just keep him busy enough to allow Giniel to power past.
All we know is that the world’s best race starts tomorrow. We’ll be keeping you posted with happenings each day.