Toyota Motorsport last week won the first 2012 Dakar Rally battle by meeting the South African Airways deadline for collection of the two Imperial Toyota Hilux double cab pickups that will contest the 8,300km 15-day marathon race in South America in January.
SAA will fly the precious cargo, together with four tons of spare parts and equipment, in one of its Airbus passenger jets to Buenos Aires in Argentina next week. The Dakar Rally starts in the Argentine resort city of Mar del Plata on January 1 and finishes in Peru’s capital Lima on 15 January.
“It’s been a wild ride already,” said a relieved Rob Howie of Toyota Motorsport. “Once the official announcement was made at the Johannesburg International Motor Show early in October that Toyota Motorsport would contest the Dakar Rally with the backing of Imperial Toyota, Duxbury Netgear and the Innovation Group, we’ve been flat-out preparing the Proudly South African racing Toyotas for this great adventure.
“In between, both pickups have competed in the final two rounds of the Absa South African Off Road Championship and also participated in five days of testing in the sand dunes of the Namib Desert. That was a major logistical exercise on its own.
“We had a final shakedown test at the RallyStar facility near Bapsfontein on Wednesday of both Imperial Toyotas as well as a third Hilux we have built for an Argentine privateer. All three drivers, (Imperial Toyota South Africa Team’s) Giniel (de Villiers) and Duncan (Vos) and Lucio (Alvarez) were on hand and successfully completed around 50km without any problems.”
Howie is the co-driver for Vos and it will be their first Dakar Rally. De Villiers’ and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz of Germany won the Dakar Rally in South America in 2009.
“We are mightily relieved that we’ve met the SAA deadline. The pressure has been huge throughout the nine weeks since the JIMS announcement and for the last four weeks we have been working 24/7 to achieve this. We’ve had to partially disassemble the vehicles so that they can fit on individual pallets in the passenger cargo hold of the SAA Airbus. We’ve also had to individually wrap all the larger spare components and pack hundreds of boxes of smaller spares and equipment for stowage in a container,” explained Howie.
“Now we have a couple of weeks off to spend with our families over Christmas before we fly to Buenos Aires on December 26.”
The team will be reassembling the vehicles at Toyota Argentina’s plant in Zarate, 100km north of Buenos Aires, before a pre-race test and shakedown at Toyota’s 4×4 test track on December 28.
The following day the race vehicles will be transported the 450 kilometres to the Argentine coastal resort city of Mar del Plata, where they will be scrutineered on December 31 before the rally starts there on January 1.
– Credit: Toyota South Africa.