South African team, Toyota Gazoo Racing, fought hard at the recently concluded 2020 Dakar rally.
It was so very almost or Nasser Al-Attiyah could have brought overall victory home for the team for the second year in a row. But that was not to be, and the team had to settle for best-of-the-rest behind the leading Mini of Carlos Sainz.
Do we as South Africans supporting a local team have anything to be ashamed of? Do we hang our heads in shame when looking at the results? Absolutely not!
Toyota Gazoo Racing, along with the other South African teams, competed against the best in the world and delivered stellar performances. And to think, they did it all in a locally-built, converted Hilux bakkie.
Toyota Gazoo Racing sent four of these converted machines to the Dakar (Fernando Alonso drove a 2019-spec bakkie), and all four finished the race. More impressive was Alonso, who finished the race in 13th place – the highest-placed rookie in this year’s event.
This is all testament to the Hilux’s abilities, yet the bakkie falls short in certain aspects to the Mini.
Do you think Toyota Gazoo Racing should persist with the Hilux? Email us your opinion.
Top seller, that’s why
This is not the first time that Toyota Gazoo Racing had to bend the knee in the Dakar. A few years ago, when Sainz and team mate, Stephane Peterhansel, drove for Peugeot, the French giant also partook in the Dakar. Their steed, back then, was a Peugeot 2008. However, the 2008 was registered as a buggy. And the 2020 Mini is a buggy, as well.
What does it mean? Unlike the Hilux, the buggies are pipe cars with a shell on top. This gives the buggy a weight advantage, which results in higher top speeds (flat out the buggies are, on average, 30km/h faster). Plus, they are rear-wheel drive, unlike the Hilux that’s 4x4.
It would make sense, then, for Toyota Gazoo Racing to ditch the Hilux and also opt for, what is essentially a more rounded vehicle. Right? Well, no.
In South Africa, the Hilux is the best-selling vehicle overall. For more than 50 years, it’s been at the forefront of the bakkie market. In 2019, it was the top-selling vehicle with more than 40 000 units sold. Also, the bakkie is renowned for its toughness, durability, and reliability. It would be a sin for Toyota to participate in the Dakar without a Hilux.Image: MotorPress
What about a diesel engine?
The Mini’s had another advantage over the Hilux bakkies, in that they were powered by 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines over the bakkie's Lexus-sourced 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine. Immediately it creates a conundrum for the South Africans because it means that the Mini’s can 1) carry less fuel, which 2) results again, in a weight advantage.
Unfortunately for Toyota SA, they do not have a big, strong 3.0-litre diesel engine in their line-up. Sure, there is the option to use the Hilux auto’s 2.8-litre (130kW/450Nm) motor, or one of the Land Cruiser’s diesel engines (4.2-litre V6, 96kW/285Nm | 4.5-litre V8, 151kW/430Nm), or the uprated unit in the Land Cruiser 200 (4.5-litre V8, 195kW/650Nm), but none of these engines are as performance-orientated as the BMW-sourced motor in the Mini’s.
It’s a catch-22 situation for Toyota Gazoo Racing, and something team principal, Glynn Hall, will no doubt ponder over.Image: MotorPress
Here’s how things stand
Toyota Gazoo Racing will not forego the Hilux bakkie, nor its big V8 engine. And why should they? The Hilux is a representation of the South African car market and a national institution. Even with the advantages the Mini had over the Hilux in this year’s race, Al-Attiyah lost out on the overall victory by less than 7 minutes.
Were it not for navigational errors on the third-last day, Al-Attiyah would have been the driver on the top step of the podium.
After two tough weeks, the Hilux proved competitive and ensured that all four drivers made it to the end. As was the case with the Mini’s, not every staged suited the South African team, but the bakkie got them to the end and within a whisker of the win.
2021 will be a new year, so don’t be surprised if our boys go one better than 2020. And that in a Hilux, nogal.Image: MotorPress