The countdown to the 36th running of the Dakar Rally is almost over and, with just one day to go to the start in Rosario, Argentina, on Sunday, the Toyota Imperial South Africa team is good to go.
It’s been a hot and hectic few days since the team flew into Buenos Aires in Argentina from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport on December 29. In heat wave conditions with temperatures above the 40 degree mark, both Toyota Imperial Hilux 4x4s have been prepped in a workshop at Toyota Argentina’s assembly plant in Zarate, some 100 kilometres from BA, since their flight across the Atlantic with SAA Cargo, the nine tons of spares and equipment needed to support the 14-day race have been off loaded and packed into the team’s support trucks and both bakkies have successfully completed a day of shake-down testing in Zarate.
“We’re good to go,” declared team manager Glyn Hall. “The lads have been extremely busy since arriving here and everything has gone according to plan. The test went very well and both drivers are happy and ready for Sunday’s opening stage.
“We just have scrutineering and documentation to complete on Saturday and then the long build-up is over. We’re well prepared and we all feel good about the challenge that lies ahead,” said Hall.
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. Leeroy Poulter and 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 stage consists of a 629-kilometre liaison section followed by a 180-kilometre special stage that will end in San Luis. An early start will see the competitors set off along the road in the region of Cordoba and on the stage they encounter narrow tracks, stony sections and blind jumps that will require some vigilance and will set them up nicely for the long haul in the days ahead.