In early October we took part in the Atlantis Dunes Fun Day with Toyota, taking the Hilux GR-S through a series of challenges, competing with fellow Toyotas and some epic off-road builds.
The Dunes are a lot of fun, but to be honest they’re best done with someone else’s car… or at least your toy car if you are lucky enough to own a daily run around too and have the funds to bounce between Atlantis and a mechanic (be that for repairs or aftermarket accessories!).
I would imagine this was the case for many of the competitors who took part in the Fun Day, because there is just no ways that some of the rigs on display were peoples’ daily drivers. Most of the crazy modifications weren’t even for general off-roading, these cars appeared to be built for one purpose only; Atlantis. For example… I spent the day ogling over this particular build; a single cab Land Rover Defender 110 with the biggest takkies I’ve ever seen. There were racing seats inside too…
I say the dunes are best done in someone else’s car because sand driving is brutal on your car. Last year my first foray into the sloping sands sent our Land Rover to the workshop shortly afterwards. This time around, my partner and I were in the fortunate position of “someone else’s car”, and lucky enough to be blessed by Deon Joubert Racing and Toyota South Africa with the latest Hilux GR-S, the sportiest and most powerful bakkie of the Hilux range.
Our Toyota team consisted of three GR-S’ as well as a 2.8L GD-6 Fortuner 4×4 and a 2.8L Hilux Legend 4×4. As in-demand as the GR-S’ were, all of the vehicles performed exceptionally, handling well and returning to the road with no damage. Considering the aftermarket modifications that characterised most of the cars at the Fun Day, it was impressive to see how well the factory-standard Toyotas drove.
It was also pleasing to drive these cars the way they’re meant to be driven! Kudos to Toyota for taking their off-roaders into the sort of terrain that adventure-oriented customers would want to drive after buying a Hilux or a Fortuner.
I wrote a full review on the Hilux GR-S, which you can read here, so the purpose of this piece is not to delve into the details of how the bakkie performed, but more to say that it was an immensely fun experience driving the 165 kW, 550 N.m double-cab up and down dunes, weaving through flags and cones, and feeling both pride in the vehicles we had and admiration for the endless interesting off-roaders that the Dunes-faithfuls partaking in the event were driving.
Driving the GR-S through the sand was an epic experience, but I had as much fun observing the generations of vehicles present and competitive on the day, from superchagred Jimnys to V8 Defenders and flatbed Toyota trucks like the conversion above. The overall winner was actually an old 70 Series V8 Toyota Land Cruiser, but I suppose that doesn’t come as a surprise.