Part 1 of Auto’s buildup to Dakar ’22 looks back at the early Hilux racing years
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 2022 race. They will race four new T1+ class proudly South African Gazoo Hilux DKRs.
The venerable Hilux boasts an impressive racing history that stretches far further back than just its 9-years of Dakar glory. Building up to Dakar 2022, this first weekly Auto episode looks back at those pioneering last millennium Hilux racing years.
MOTORSPORT IMPROVES THE BREED
There’s no doubt that motorsport improves an automotive breed. Racing has always played a central part to ensure that the Hilux stays on top of the SA motoring charts. The bakkie’s off-road racing legend stretches all the way back to 1969. When that badge first took the SA market by storm.
Hilux was 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 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 class victory. Built by Toyota Motorsport manager Scamp Porter and his team, the turbocharged machine commenced 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. It notched up more than its fair share of race and class wins. But the venerable drive Hilux was up against the might of its 4×4 Land Cruiser 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 winged rear drive Hilux 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. Toyota Motorsport 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. Come back next Wednesday for the next episode of the story of the Toyota Hilux racing story…
Toyota Hilux Race History Index Program
Part 1 – the early years
Part 2 – racing into the new millennium
Part 3 – local domination and the Dakar dream – live Wednesday 15 December
Part 4 – SA Gazoo Hiluxes on top of the world! – live Wednesday 22 December