In a rare reversal of roles, Toyota Gazoo Racing is applying Toyota road car technology to strengthen its challenge for the 2021 Dakar Rally, the world’s most gruelling off-road racing event. Seeking to avoid the tyre deflation problems that hampered the team’s performance in the 2020 edition, it has adapted the new intelligent tyre pressure monitoring system recently introduced on the multi-award-winning GR Yaris performance hatchback.
The component’s electronics and programming have been upgraded with assistance from team partner Motul. It will be tested to the limit on the four V8-powered Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux taking part in the rally, which gets under way in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, tomorrow (3 January).
This year’s entry brings a mix of experienced drivers and relative newcomers to the sport. The team is spearheaded by the 2019 winners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, together with seasoned campaigners Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro. New to the team are the double South African cross-country champion Henk Lategan and his navigator Brett Cummings. Cummings is returning to the event on four wheels after finishing second in the motorcycle category in 2014. The line-up is completed by Shameer Variawa, a former South African champion, alongside his compatriot Dennis Murphy, another multiple national champion.
Despite only having raced in two international events prior to the 2021 Dakar Rally, the new Hilux has proven its speed and reliability with appearances in the final rounds of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. The latest model is an evolution of the car that won the 2019 Dakar, with further refinements to many parts. The suspension has been comprehensively retuned and a new exhaust system has brought an improvement in the low-speed torque of the naturally aspirated V8 engine, a power unit adopted from the Lexus RC-F coupe.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal, said: “This is more than just another race. In the turmoil of 2020 and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed at times that the rally wouldn’t happen. Even so, we continued developing our Hilux with our eyes on taking the challenge, despite the lack of international rallies. Now we are proud to be here and confident that our car is ready to challenge for the title again for Toyota Gazoo Racing.”
This year the route starts in Jeddah before heading south towards Bisha. From there, the rally will complete a stage at Wadi Ad-Dawasir and then swing to the north-east for a one-night visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Two more stages follow before a rest day in Ha’il on 9 January 9, before the start of the second half of the rally. Competitors will head north to Sakaka, before turning westwards to the future city of Neom for two stages. Finally, the rally heads south via Al Ula and Yanbu, before reaching the finish in Jeddah on 15 January.