So far Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa has had a splendid year, having won the 2019 Dakar.
The locally-built Toyota Hilux that achieved this historic victory in the hands of Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and French navigator, Mathieu Baumel, was largely developed during the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS), where it will continue to compete during 2019.
Last year saw Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy triumph as overall champions of the SACCS; with teammates Henk Lategan and navigator Barry White taking the honours in Class FIA. Both drivers will be back in action for 2019, though Lategan will have a new navigator beside him when he lines up for the start of the season at the Mpumalanga 400, on March 15th, 2019.
Brett Cummings will strap into the navigator’s seat beside Lategan this year, and the East London-born motorcycle ace is looking forward to the experience.
“It is extremely exciting, and fits in with my own aspirations to return to Dakar on four wheels, rather than two,” says Cummings of his new role. “I’ve been fortunate to race bikes all over the world, and finished the Dakar Rally twice. I’ve also navigated in the cross-country series before, and even though my experience is limited, I’m certain that I can bring a lot to the team.”
Staying on dirt, defending South African National Rally Champions, Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle, will also be back in the fray in 2019. The pair have stamped their authority on the South African rally scene, winning back to back to back championships – not to mention the Class championships they won back when Class S2000 was still a thing.
Now, in the front-wheel-drive era, the Class R2N Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Etios has proven a formidable machine, and in the hands of Botterill and Vacy-Lyle, has become the car to beat for at least the last three years.
“We’ve been fortunate to win so many championships on the trot,” says Botterill. “But the car remains good, and the championship is alive and well. And we’re more than ready to face the new season.”
It won’t all be plain sailing, however, as the pair will undeniably start the year with a big target on their backs. With that said, their 2018 season didn’t start too well, with a DNF on their home event. But then the pair found their mojo and pretty much set the pace for the rest of the season.