Monday, June 24, 2024

Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body begins Dakar 2024 testing

The T2 category for production cars might not be the racing-built monsters of T1, but even stock vehicles need testing. Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body began testing in Morocco last Tuesday as they prepare for the 2024 Dakar Rally.

Akira Miura is leading the test as the Land Cruiser 300’s driver. Miura has three Dakar victories to his name with the most recent in 2022.

The team has won the Dakar Rally’s T2 class ten times and every year since 2014. While there is the caveat that they are typically the only factory-backed programmes in T2, they have also been able to complete the gruelling rally each time.

For the 2023 edition, TLC raced the new Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport. Miura and Ronald Basso traded the lead as the lone competitive T2 entries, but also hit multiple snags that relegated them to the Dakar Experience for those who retired from a stage and were therefore ineligible for overall classification. Nonetheless, Basso defeated Miura for his maiden Dakar triumph.

The aforementioned struggles included Miura rolling in the first stage, followed by steering problems for Basso the next day. Miura then broke a drivetrain on Stage #5 which resulted in his elimination from the overall. While he was able to win his class in the end, the second half of the rally was a nightmare for Basso as the cooling system failed in Stage #9, a engine belt broke the next day, and power steering went out in Stage #12 as did the engine turbo a day later.

Ever the perfectionists, the technical problems prompted the team’s parent company Toyota Auto Body Co., Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corporation to immediately get to work on improving the car for 2024. The development process was especially crucial as the Land Cruiser was virtually identical to the consumer model, and the demands of rally raid is are viewed by Toyota as an important tool to push the vehicle’s capabilities. Toyota’s leadership has long regarded Dakar as the best way to build and test a vehicle that “can go anywhere and come back alive.”

Basso’s co-driver Jean-Michel Polato served as interim navigator for Miura; Laurent Lichtleuchter, a close friend of Miura and his partner for his Dakar wins, died in a crash at the Morocco Desert Challenge in April. Fumihiko Tanigami of Fukuoka Toyota Corporation and Alex Cardoso have also joined the team for testing.

The 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January.