- Four South African-built Toyota Gazoo Racing specialist Hilux vehicles will start the 2022 Dakar on Saturday.
- Three vehicles are crewed by South Africans, with Dakar ace Giniel de Villiers leading the local charge.
- Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah will pilot the fourth vehicle, and he's considered the driver to beat at the event.
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South Africa's Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy, South African Cross-Country Champions Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings, and Shameer Variawa and co-driver Danie Stassen represent three out of four teams that will lead the charge for Toyota Gazoo Racing at the 2022 Dakar that blasts off this Saturday (1 January).
The South African trio will be joined by recently crowned winners of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (France). Al-Attiyah and Baumel are considered by many to be the team that scoops the overall win at this year's event.
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New Dakar special Hilux-derived vehicle for 2022
All four Toyota Gazoo Racing teams will be fielding the latest version of the race-proven Hilux – the new Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+.
The new car features a twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine from the new Toyota Land Cruiser. It also sports larger wheels, a new, single-shock suspension system with more travel, and a bold new look.
The car was designed and developed at the Toyota Gazoo Racing headquarters in Barbeque Downs near Kyalami. The vehicle represents the latest version of the proudly South African project that has seen the team compete at the Dakar Rally since 2012, attaining multiple podiums and one overall victory during the last ten years.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal, says: "We are fully prepared, and we are excited to test our new Hilux T1+ against the competition. We're confident that the new car has put us on an all-new level, but you never know just how good you are until the flag drops for the start of the race. We can't wait to get going in Hail."
What do the drivers have to say?
Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers says: "Many punctures have plagued us during the previous few Dakar Rallies, but we hope that the new T1+ specification will give us an opportunity to attack throughout the event. The new car and new engine is a powerful combination, and we are confident that we'll be able to take the fight to the competition."
Local off-road racing champion Henk Lategan adds: "For me, Dakar 2022 is a chance to show what I am truly capable of. Brett and I had an excellent outing at Dakar 2021, but unfortunately, our progress was cut short in Stage 5. We are very excited about our prospects for the upcoming event."
Dakar newcomer Shameer Variawa expounds: "Last year was my first Dakar finish, but I am confident that 2022 will bring an even better result. This time around, I don't just want to finish – I want to show what I'm capable of in one of the world's toughest auto races. The new Hilux T1+ is an extremely good car, so now the work is up to me and Danie, who will be racing in his first Dakar Rally."
Meanwhile, 2022 Dakar favourite Nasser Al-Attiyah adds: "We are very proud of winning the 2021 World Cup – the third victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing. The car that brought us all the wins in 2021 was extremely reliable and very fast, but the new car is definitely better. We're ready to attack from the start at the Dakar Rally, as we'll be aiming for the top step of the podium."
The action kick starts this weekend in Saudi Arabia
Dakar 2022 is set to start on 1 January, with a liaison, as they refer to it, from Jeddah to Ha'il. The road section covers 815 kilometres and will be followed by a short timed section of 19km, which the organisers will use to determine the starting orders for Stage 1.
The route then moves in a clockwise direction, visiting towns such as Al Artawiyah and Al Qaisumah before reaching the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. Here, the bivouac will remain in place for several days until the rest day on 8 January. The race will continue to Al Dawadimi, Wadi Ad Dawasir and Bisha, from Riyadh, before concluding in Jeddah on 14 January.
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