Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa bringing three Hiluxes to 2024 Dakar Rally

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa will field three Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ at the 2024 Dakar Rally. While former winner Giniel de Villiers will run his twenty-first Dakar, the other two Hiluxes will be piloted by newcomers Guy Botterill and Saood Variawa.

De Villiers has raced at Dakar since 2003, winning the 2009 edition in a Volkswagen. He joined Toyota’s new Dakar programme in 2012 and has recorded five overall podiums in the decade since. His 2023 Dakar was marred by a retirement in Stage #6 that knocked him out of the overall, but a litany of other retirements kept him in the top five and he finished fourth. He is also the defending South African Rally-Raid Champion.

He has completed all twenty of his Dakar starts, a finish streak that ties him with Yoshimasa Sugawara (1989 to 2009) for the longest in race history. As such, reaching the 2024 finish will earn him the outright record.

Botterill is pursuing the South African Rally-Raid Championship, trailing Gareth Woolridge who is also making his Dakar début in 2024. He has plenty of momentum entering this weekend’s season-ending Waterberg 400 after winning the Parys 400 before finishing second to Woolridge at last month’s Renergen 400.

Eighteen-year-old Variawa made his rally raid début at the SARRC’s TGR 1000 Desert Race in June. Despite his youth, he has quickly proven his mettle after moving into the discipline from touring cars. His father Shameer, himself a Dakar veteran and SARRC champion, owns GR DKR Hilux developer SVR Hallspeed.

“The Dakar Rally has been close to our hearts ever since Toyota SA Motors launched the project back in 2011,” said Toyota SA Motors marketing vice president Glenn Crompton. “Our first participation, in 2012, was a landmark for the company, as we took on the world. We finished third in that first outing, and improved to second the following year. Since then, the Dakar Rally project has been on an incredible journey where we have continually improved the Hilux, building an ever-better car that triumphed in the world’s toughest race: first in 2019, and then again in 2022 and 2023. We are extremely proud to be part of this journey, and we are excited about showcasing our latest GR DKR Hilux T1+ in the hands of both experienced and young talent.”

Dennis Murphy returns as de Villiers’ co-driver, while François Cazalet will do so for Variawa; Cazalet, normally a T3 navigator, called his first race in a Hilux at the Rallye du Maroc in October with for Guillaume de Mévius. Brett Cummings will serve in the post for Botterill.

Henk Lategan, who finished fifth at the 2023 Dakar behind de Villiers, will miss the 2024 race due to a dislocated shoulder at the Renergen 400. His absence allowed Cummings to move over to Botterill’s passenger seat for the Waterberg 400 and Dakar.

As their name suggests, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is the South African subsidiary of Toyota Gazoo Racing. The parent company has won five Dakar Rallies, including the last two, and both World Rally-Raid Championships since its inception in 2022, will field Hiluxes for Seth Quintero and Lucas Moraes in 2024. TGR’s other regional branches like Toyota Gazoo Racing Czech will also be represented at Dakar.

The 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January.