Part 1 of Auto’s build up to Dakar 2021 looks back at the early years of Hilux in racing
South Africa’s best-selling vehicle, the Toyota Hilux has a proud racing history. Now Kyalami-based Toyota Gazoo Racing is preparing to chase for Dakar Rally glory across the Saudi desert. Three South African drivers including Giniel de Villiers, plus his fellow Dakar legend Nasser Al Attiyah, will tackle the January 3-15 2021 race, staring and finishing in Jeddah. They will race four proudly South African Gazoo Hiluxes.
The venerable Hilux however boasts an impressive racing history that stretches far further back than just its 8-years of Dakar glory. As a build-up to the desert epic, this first episode of a weekly Auto series looks back at those pioneering Toyota Hilux racing years through end of the previous millennium.
MOTORSPORT IMPROVES THE BREED
There’s no doubt that motorsport improves an automotive breed. And racing has always played a central part to ensure that the Toyota Hilux has remained right on top of the South African motoring pile. The bakkie’s off-road racing legend stretches all the way back to 1969, when that badge first took the SA market by storm.
A weapon of choice among privateers, the first Hiluxes raced in the Roof of Africa, Barberspan 500 and Toyota Trans Kalahari. Fun racing as families and friends raced together, mostly for the thrill of it. A time when Toyota Land Cruisers, big Yankee bakkies and Sandmasters shared the tracks with scramblers, as they were once known.
The Toyota Hilux sprang to off-road racing prominence when Swedish Toyota World Rally stars Ove Andersson and Arne Hertz stormed to Roof of Africa commercial vehicle class victory. Built by the then Toyota Motorsport manager Scamp Porter and his team, that turbocharged machine was the start of an incredible Hiiux racing story.
TURBO HILUX MADE A NAME FOR ITSELF
That turbo Hilux went on to make a name for itself in ’70s off-road racing, notching up its fair share of individual event and class wins. But the venerable rear-wheel drive Hilux was up against the might of the likes of its 4×4 Land Cruiser bakkie sibling among others. Those intrepid campaigners often found themselves at a disadvantage when the going really got tough.
The next chapter of the Hilux racing story commenced when South African rally champion Cassie Coetzee arrived on the off-road scene. Belfast Toyota dealer Kassie campaigned a special two-wheel drive Hilux with a giant wing mounted across its tailgate to great effect. Coetzee later also ran a Hilux in SA rallying in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
The first 4×4 Hilux arrived in the mid-80s and soon became a favourite amongst off road racing privateers. Toyota Motorsport soon also campaigned Coetzee in a factory Class D off-road racer, leaving Apie Reyneke to tackle the overall challenge in his indomitable Land Cruiser. Coetzee later also campaigned a wild one-off turbo racing Hilux in the national off-road championship.
JUMPING HILUX SHONE IN SUPER SERIES
That was also around the time that the late motorsport entrepreneur Arthur Abrahams introduced the popular Super Series to South Africa. A motocross-like short-circuit series, it catered for American stadium truck jumping bakkies. The Toyota Motorsport team wasted no time to build a wild Super Series Hilux for Coetzee to race with great success.
The local motorsport landscape was however changing as quickly as the rapidly evolving South African motor industry. On track, Supertouring racing had collapsed and factory teams started looking elsewhere to spend their racing buck. And bakkies were becoming a ever greater component of the local motor industry. Click here for the next episode of the story of the Toyota Hilux racing story…