Toyota’s Dakar challenge
Kristof Pitteljon

Dakar 2014 is go!

Being lost and alone in the desert for most people would be the stuff of nightmares… But for Thierry Sabine, a passionate motorcycle racer, that time of isolation getting lost while competing in the Abidjan-Nice rally in 1977 would be a moment of inspiration… Click through to read more about Toyota’s Dakar challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Preview
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
Stage 5
Stage 6
Stage 7
Stage 8
Stage 9
Stage 10
Stage 11
Stage 12


Preview

Updated: 14/01/14 11:00 CET

On December 28 the following year, his vision became reality as the flag dropped for his own race. A race that started as a fun challenge between amateur enthusiasts to cross the Sahara Desert would go on to become one of the most demanding rally raid races in history, the Dakar Rally.

In fact, until 2009, the race was known as The Paris-Dakar rally, and as the name suggested, it was a race starting from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal in West Africa – most critically navigating across the hostile Sahara desert.

Preparations in the desert

The race itself has always faced its challenges, particularly as it had to plot its way through a host of African countries, some of which were experiencing troubled times. In fact, the 2008 edition was cancelled amid fears of terrorist attacks, forcing a continental shift the following year to South America where the race has remained ever since.

For the 2014 race, competitors will be faced with an epic journey through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile – over 9,000km of parched deserts, scorching heat and mountains, there will be no rest for the competitors as they reach speeds of 180km/h in extremely rough terrain.

Dakar 2014 route (map image courtesy Toyota Motor Corporation)

Since its inception in 1979, Toyota has been a prominent and hugely successful competitor in the rally. In this first year of amateur participation, only 74 entrants completed the course, of which 13 were a Toyota.

Who’ll cross the finish line first?

Competing in both divisions of the four-wheeled category – Production, for non-converted commercial vehicles and Super Production for converted and racing vehicles – Toyota vehicles are very popular among competitors with Landcruiser and 4Runner/Hilux chosen for their robustness, ease of maintenance and reliability.

The highest competitor entry was in the 13th running of the event in 1991, where of the 129 vehicles entered, 34 were a Toyota. Even this was eclipsed in 2002 when nearly one in every two vehicles crossing the finishing line was a Toyota, a testament to the cars’ legendary reliability.

Toyota celebrated eight consecutive victories in the production division since 2005 alone, proving that the many hours of testing and development of our production cars endure before sale enables them to conquer the severest rally in the world.

Toyota joined 450 vehicles representing more than 50 nationalities at the start of the annual race in Rosario, Argentina on Sunday to kick off the first stage.

Team Toyota Imperial South Africa is fielding two crews with 2009 champion Giniel de Villiers piloting the South African-built Toyota Hilux in the Production Class.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll remember that Giniel is not a stranger in Europe, having taken part at the Goodwood Festival of Speed over the past two years. Last year, marshals at the Goodwood rally stage honoured the South African start with the Driver’s Award for being the most exciting driver during the event.

In honour of Madiba. We will be remembering him on the #Dakar2014 pic.twitter.com/HwXS836w6T

— Giniel de Villiers (@TheRealGiniel) January 5, 2014


 

Find out more about Toyota at this year’s Dakar Rally here:

Dakar – Dakar 2013

Check out all the latest videos from Toyota South Africa in our new playlist:

You can also discover more about Dakar on Toyota’s global motorsport website.

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Stage 1

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

Kicking up dust on Stage 1

Dakar 2014 started on the first day with a lengthy 400km road section. The emotional high of seeing thousands of fans lining the streets, cheering on the competitors, was quickly dampened for the lead Toyota Imperial South Africa Hilux as Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz were struck with a power steering issue after 30km that meant they had to keep stopping to add oil. It cost them 16 minutes and a disappointing day one position of 27th. On a more positive note, their Hilux of team 2 finished the day in 9th, a very solid start for Leeroy Poulter and Robert Howie.

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Stage 2

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

Hilux attracting plenty of media attention

Day two dawned with a route that saw the teams racing across a myriad of conditions. Racing at high speed at over 2,000 meters above sea level, the cars and teams had to navigate their way across clay and rock terrain that saw them circle the Nevado and Payün mountain ranges, which tower at over 3,800 meters. Fortunately it was a much better day behind the wheel for Giniel and Dirk, in which they clawed back valuable time and positions and climbed up the leader board to 6th position, averaging 109 km/h for over 400 kilometres. Giniel summed up the mood in the team declaring: “we are back in business!”

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Stage 3

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

Team Principal Glyn Hall working on dusty Hilux

The South African team started day three with renewed optimism. A lot can change over an event as tough as this, but it was still worth remembering that that they lay 17 minutes behind the Mini of Stéphane Peterhansel(with 11 Dakar victories including the past two years) and the other five strong diesel competitors. Day three was all about punctures. The majority of the top teams suffered as the abrasive rocks and stones brought the cars to a continual halt. Due to a technical issue with the automatic jack, the lead Hilux lost 12 minutes changing two tyres that would normally have been completed in two, and made it home in 13th place. The special stage from San Rafael to San Luis was even more frustrating for some rivals who had to replace up to six tyres during the course of the single stage. The highlight of the day was our second Hilux which finished the course in a tremendous third place, moving them back up into the top 10 after losing out on the second day. Even after their setbacks, the lead Imperial Hilux sits within 30 minutes of the new leader Joan Roma in the Mini and an optimistic Giniel commented: “all is still to play for.”

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Stage 4

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

Rocky paths

The 657 kilometre route of day four would prove to be another disappointing day for Giniel and Dirk. The long route to Chilecito that winds its way through valleys and across deserts exposed the power steering problems they experienced on day one. Four stops, even with oil being provided to them by spectators, lost the duo 25 minutes to stage winner Carlos Sainz(Trivia: Carlos triumphed in the World Rally Championships, winning the drivers title twice in 1990 and 1992, with Toyota). The fact they still finished in seventh place shows that even with the problems they endured, the Hilux has tremendous speed.

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Stage 5

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

Leeroy Poulter, driving Imperial’s other Hilux entry

Stage five represented the longest of the rally. An epic 912 km route awaited the drivers and it proved to be a real test for both drivers and navigators! Crossing a challenging series of dunes the teams had to find a very hard-to-locate check-point on a dry river bed. Fortunately for Giniel, his navigator was on top form and Dirk located the way-point with little trouble, unlike a lot of their competitors. Finishing only four minutes behind the stage winner Roma in the Mini even with two punctures and a brake problem was a superb result, even if Giniel was disappointed not to take the top spot. Unfortunately Leeroy in the second Hilux had another tough day when he suffered from clutch problems and lost three hours waiting for assistance. News later in the day that lead drivers Sainz and Al-Attiyah had been penalised by an hour for navigational errors only helped to cheer the Toyota Imperial South Africa team as they moved up to fifth overall.

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Stage 6

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

The day was marred by the news of the death of experienced Dakar motorcyclist Eric Palante from Belgium. Shadows were also cast on the event when two Argentine journalists perished. We send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of all those who lost their lives.

At the end of a sobering day six between Tucman and Salta, that saw the race traverse the wooded mountains passes of Argentina at speeds approaching 175 km/h, a relieved Giniel really benefited from a clear road without the sand and dust that they battled through in earlier stages. Finishing the day in fourth position overall and only ten minutes behind second place driver Orlando Terranova, was a great end for the Imperial Hilux team after a challenging first few days.

As the teams went into their one and only mid-race rest day, Toyota can be really encouraged as three of the top ten are Toyota Hilux’s. Joining Giniel in the top places were Marek Debrowski and team mate Adam Malysz in the Orlen Toyota team.

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Stage 7

Updated: 14/01/14 16:00 CET

Work continues in the late night

The teams entered Sunday’s stage seven after a well-deserved rest day and looked forward to the challenges that lay ahead of them. Run at very high altitude, that tested not only the teams but the engines as they gasped for air at over 4,000 meters, meant that the diesel competitors to Toyota had an advantage. In spite of this, the Hilux of Giniel ended the day in third position as second placed Orlando Terranova was hit with a penalty.

The top-placed Toyota Imperial South Africa Hilux of Giniel is currently 3rd overall with a 48min deficit to the lead.

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Stage 8

Updated: 21/01/14 14:30 CET

Sunset in the Andes

On Monday’s stage eight, a 302km stage that saw the teams leave Argentina and enter Chile, a calm strategic head was certainly required. The challenge that lay in the sand dunes coming up for the next stage is key for the leading drivers at the head of the field. Owing to the properties of driving across the car clogging soft sand, most teams played the tactical game to avoid finishing stage eight in the lead and having to take charge the following day. Giniel finished the day in seventh place as he was stuck behind the Mini of Russia’s Vasilyev compounded by reduced power from their engine as it was starved of valuable air at the high altitudes. He maintained his third place overall and stayed a little over three minutes ahead of Orlando Terranova’s Mini, declaring today was: “a day to be patient.”

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Stage 9

Updated: 21/01/14 14:30 CET

Plenty of work away from the stages

No doubt all the competitors entered stage nine with apprehension. It finished with a win for Mini’s Stéphane Peterhansel, the veteran Dakar entrant who secured his second stage win in three days. As expected, the stage from Calama to Iquique across vast towering dunes of sand was a real test for the teams, as they fought through dust clouds and churned-up terrain from racers ahead. Giniel battled hard with Orlando through the day, but unfortunately suffered some navigational problems and two flat tyres, and ended the day in joint fourth with an identical time to Nasser Al-Attiyah in the Mini.

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Stage 10

Updated: 21/01/14 14:30 CET

We’re not alone in the desert

Yet more sand greeted the drivers on Wednesday’s Stage 10, a long 631km route from Iquique to Antofagasta. The big news of the day was the retirement of rally legend Carlos Sainz who crashed out of the race, destroying his buggy in the meantime but fortunately only suffering minor injuries. A hugely consistent phase for Giniel saw him end the day yet again the best non-Mini runner in fourth. This was a superb result after enduring knife-edge soft dunes in the first half of the day and fesh fesh (a fine sand that behaves like mud) in the second. He was lucky to finish at all after coasting downhill to the finish with barely any fuel remaining.

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Stage 11

Updated: 21/01/14 14:30 CET

Some incredible views to be had

As the race entered its critical last three days, Mini took the decision to protect their lead and ordered their drivers to stop fighting and to maintain their positions in the top three to ensure a podium lock-out. This was after Peterhansel carved a huge chunk of lost time from his Mini teammate Roma the day before and cut the lead at the front to two minutes.

The 605km route across the harsh Atacama desert seemed to suit the two Toyota cars, with Giniel finishing the stage in third and Marek Dabrowski in the Orlen Toyota team maintaining his seventh overall. It wasn’t easy though… Giniel suffered three punctures on this stage alone as hidden rocks in the fesh fesh and the hard road surface took their toll. The stage was won by Terranova in the Mini who, as a result of his 12 minute advantage, pushed Giniel back into fifth in the overall standings.

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Stage 12

Updated: 21/01/14 14:30 CET

Coming to the end

Confusion reigned on Friday’s stage 12, as the supposed team orders at Mini seemed to be disregarded. Peterhansel who was apparently instructed to follow his teammate Roma home to the finish ended the day ahead as he attacked his Mini colleague on the penultimate day. With the last day of any real sand to contend with and over 200km of rocky roads to navigate, Giniel powered to the end more than six minutes ahead of Terranova, ending the day fourth and regaining his fourth position in the standings.

So, after 12 days traversing sand dunes the size of buildings, roads so rocky they would tear tyres apart in a second and altitudes so high they make you gasp for air, the 2014 Dakar Rally came to its conclusion.

4th overall for Giniel

The final route from La Serena to Valparaiso saw Giniel secure his first stage win in this year’s event, an immensely difficult feat when you are competing against a squad of eleven highly competitive Minis. The race was finally won by long-time leader Nani Roma in the Mini, crossing the finishing line along with teammates Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah after the former waited for his colleagues 24 km from the end, to cross the finish line in formation.

Giniel finished a very gruelling two weeks in fourth position overall. As the only driver to take the fight to the Minis, and his seventh top 5 finish in 10 races, the team is hugely proud of the performance and it will no doubt give them a massive motivation to go a step further in next years race. Giniel was joined in the top 10 by Orlen Team Toyota driver Marek Dabrowski who finished in seventh and Giniels teammate Leeroy Poulter in 33rd place after suffering earlier issues.

Further great news for Toyota in the production category, as Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body finished the stage in first and second position and secured outright victory in the class. A testament to the legendary robustness of Toyota’s go anywhere 4×4’s!

The #345 Toyota Land Cruiser’s driver, Jun Mitsuhashi, has had a sterling record at Dakar, first entering on two wheels before switching to four with Toyota. He’s captured two crowns in consecutive appearances in 2010 and 2011 in the unmodified production vehicles class.

As the teams pack up and head home, they will soon begin the preparations for next year’s event, and we can look forward to the Toyota teams taking their places ready for another epic Dakar Rally in 2015.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vO31IhX9v3A

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