The team at Toyota Motorsport sighed a massive sigh of relief recently when the two locally developed and built Imperial Toyota Hilux race vehicles left the workshop in Barbeque Downs – next stop Buenos Aires.
The two newly completed race vehicles (piloted by Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter, with Dirk von Zitzewitz and Rob Howie doing navigating duty), together with a third bakkie, built for Saudi WRC driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi, will be on the start line for the 2015 Dakar which kicks off on January 4th in the Argentine capital.
It took a gargantuan effort to not only build, test and prepare the race vehicles for shipping, but to also beat the deadline for packing the six tons of additional equipment that accompanied the vehicles when they departed last week.
As in the past, the mass of gear was shipped to South America by SAA Cargo, and will initially be trucked from Buenos Aires to Toyota Argentina’s assembly facility at Zerate. Once at the facility in Zerate, the partially disassembled race-vehicles will be returned to race trim, and prepared for a pre-race shakedown on January 2nd.
“A lot has to happen once we land in Buenos Aires on December 27th,” says team principal Glyn Hall. “But the team is better prepared than ever, and as highly motivated as always.”
While the official start of the Dakar is on January 4th, in reality the race started much earlier for the Toyota Imperial South African Dakar Team.
“Getting everything ready for the race is an operation similar to a special forces assault. We needed to build and test the vehicles, manufacture spare parts – of which there are nearly 4,000 – draw up an equipment list and catalogue every single item,” continues Hall. “And then we had to pack everything into purpose built crates and literally hundreds of numbered plastic containers, which will slot into our logistics trucks once we arrive in South America.”
This is Toyota South Africa Motorsport’s fourth year of participation in the world’s toughest motorsport event. As such the crew works like a well-oiled machine, and thanks to certain changes in the regulations, as well as significant testing and development during 2014, there is an air of expectancy in the camp.
“Even so, a lot still needs to happen before we even pull up on the start for Stage 1,” says Hall. “We’ll take it one day at a time. Dakar is not an easy race to win – there’s a lot of people trying – and in our experience the best tactic is to tackle each day as a separate challenge.”
The race gets under way in Buenos Aires on January 4th, 2015. The route then stretches into Chile and Bolivia, before returning to Argentina for the finale. This year’s race will be run in a continent-sized loop, and as such will end back in Buenos Aires on January 17th.