Everything keeps going right for Toyota as Dakar 2021 looms in Hilux to Dakar Part 4
Toyota Hilux Race History Index – start at the beginning if you have not read it all yet!
Part 1 – the early years
Part 2 – racing into the new millennium
Part 3 – local domination and the Dakar dream
Part 4 – SA Toyota Gazoo Hiluxes on top of the world!
In the story of the Hilux to Dakar part 4, 2015 started in style for Toyota South Africa Motorsport. Following a significant upturn under Glyn Hall’s spell, Giniel de Villiers’s Hilux stormed home second in the Dakar. In spite of the disadvantage of racing an altitude-deprived naturally aspirated V8 versus mountain-fit turbocharged competition. In the extremes if the Andes.
Leeroy Poulter impressed with his pace on debut. He was held up by a suspension issue and picked up a rookie navigation error on his way to 16th.
POULTER LEADS THE HILUX CHARGE
Back on home soil, Poulter powered to four race wins in eight starts. He led a Toyota championship 1-2 ahead of teammate Anthony Taylor. The duo clinched the Hilux’s fourth South African Cross Country Production title on the trot in 2015.
Toyota South Africa Motorsport moved under the Gazoo Racing banner for 2016. Giniel de Villiers delivered yet another podium for the team at the Dakar. Countryman Poulter came home fifth and Saudi Yazeed al Rajhi finished 11th in the third factory Hilux.
Leeroy Poulter then went on to deliver an incredible six wins out of seven SA Cross Country races. On his way to a back-to-back title in 2016. Leeroy simultaneously wrapped up the last real South African Rally championship for Toyota. Sadly Poulter was sidelined for medical reasons later in the season. So Toyota drafted Zimbabwean former SA rally champion Conrad Rautenbach in to pilot the Hilux. And keep the team’s two-year unbeaten record intact in the local series.
ALL-STAR DAKAR ATTACK
Toyota took a star-studded team to Dakar 2017. But it proved a tough nut, when Nasser Al Attiyah crashed out of the lead late in the race. That set off a series of disasters as Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma both lost time too. Both men however fought back hard to see Roma home fourth, while de Villiers charged back to fifth. Conrad Rautenbach recovered from assisting his stricken teammates to take most deserved rookie honours in eighth.
De Villiers then romped to his first South African Cross Country Championship in 2017. As the Toyota Hilux continued to dominate the local off-road race scene. As utterly as it commanded the South African new car sales charts month in, month out. Proving beyond reasonable doubt that what wins on Saturday, sells on Monday.
Toyota South Africa’s Qatari star Nasser Al Attiyah made good at the Dakar a year later. He hung in to take second from de Villiers. And two Proudly South African Toyota Hiluxes populated the Dakar podium for the first time. That in spite to the normally aspirated V8 Toyotas’ continued disadvantage. Versus the horde of turbocharged rivals in the Andean stages that made up the majority of the race.
PERUVIAN DESERT DELIVERS DAKAR WIN
A change of venue to a Peru-only Dakar played into Toyota’s hands in two ways. One, the race was run at less severe altitudes. And two, Nasser Al Attiyah is at his best in the dunes, which made up the majority of the route. Both factors saw to Al Attiyah realising Glyn Hall and his Toyota Gazoo Racing team’s long held dream. They won the epic race in 2019.
The often under-funded South African-built factory Gazoo Racing Toyota Hiluxes remained less than fancied in the international arena. But it had long delivered Dakar podiums.. The team worked tirelessly towards its objective. And finally achieved that in Peru in 2019 to also earn it the kudos the team so well deserves.
Back at home, new young gun Henk Lategan yet again vindicated team boss Hall’s faith in a fresh talent. He won the local championship in his maiden year for Gazoo Hilux.
LATEGAN DOES THE HILUX DOUBLE
There was a bigger change at Dakar 2020 as it moved into its third chapter in the Saudi Arabian Desert. The Gazoo Racing Toyota Hiluxes fought an epic duel. Al Attiyah only just lost out on victory by a matter of seconds. After two weeks of racing. Hiluxes made up the bulk of the top twenty. Home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi home fourth ahead Giniel de Villiers and Bernhard Ten Brinke. With double F1 world champion among them too.
Hein Lategan meanwhile powered to his second South African Cross Country Championship on the trot. He edged Giniel de Villiers as Toyota maintained its upper hand in spite of the challenges of lockdown 2020. Lategan’s double titles earned him a slot in the four-car Hilux team headed for Dakar 2021. He will race alongside Al Attiyah and de Villiers. And another former SA champion in Shameer Variyawa who will tackle his second Dakar in January.
The Toyota Hilux racing story represents a brilliant tale of perseverance and success. In its early years, Hilux made good by proving a more than just competent off-road racing weapon. In spite of it lacking some of the hardware it may have needed to defeat the likes of the Land Cruiser. In time, however, the race Hilux evolved to become a fearsome competitor and an indomitable race winner.
ALL SET FOR 2021
The Proudly South African Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux has not just made the South African Cross Country Championship its own over the past decade. It has beaten the best in the world at the most gruelling race on the planet, too. And it is set to take it to them yet again from January 3-15 2021.
It can be taken with salt, that Hilux will continue to lead the way in cross-country racing, on the road and of course, off those Toyota dealer floors. Quite simply put, the Toyota Hilux is ultimate proof that motorsport improves the breed.