Not more than half a kilometre as the crow flies from the Kyalami grand prix circuit and 24 kilometres north of central Johannesburg a Dakar Rally winner is taking shape in the Barbecue Downs workshops of Toyota Motorsport.
It’s the latest version of the off road racing Imperial Toyota Hilux pickup in which Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz will aim to win the Dakar Rally in South America in the next three years. The 2009 Dakar Rally winners finished a fantastic third overall in this year’s event in Toyota’s first attempt with the Hilux pickup.
Some 200 individual chromoly tubes that make up the chassis and integrated roll cage have been measured, cut and welded by the specialist fabrication team of Toyota Motorsport. It’s been a crucial 1 000 man hours of work during which the team completed all the components that were fabricated and machined in-house before assembly of the rest of the new racing pickup could start.
The man responsible for the blueprint of what will be the best racing Hilux ever built is chief designer Michael Jardim.
“This will be the eighth double cab racing Hilux that we’ve built since the first one was produced for the 2011 national off road championship season,” said Jardim.
“We’ve learnt a lot since then, both in our national championship events and also in the 2012 Dakar Rally. This latest version incorporates all this knowledge and will hopefully be the vehicle that enables us to achieve Toyota’s goal of a first Dakar victory within the next three years. It will certainly be the best racing pickup we’ve ever built.”
Jardim speaks from experience. He’s been designing race cars since 1998 when he joined Glyn Hall at Hallspeed, the internationally renowned specialist race car builders and preparation experts.
After obtaining a national diploma in mechanical engineering from the Vaal Triangle Technikon in Vanderbijlpark, Jardim worked as a mechanic on racing bikes and cars before joining the Hallspeed team to work on Gp N production cars. He went on to become part of a successful design team that won numerous national Gp N and Touring Cars championships before turning its attention to off road racing in 2001.
He was involved in the design of South African-built off road racing pickups that went on to win the SA off road championship for the next nine consecutive years and some of which competed with distinction in the Dakar Rally.
His association with Toyota began in 2010 when Hallspeed took over the management of Toyota Motorsport and he was responsible for the design of the first double cab version of the off road racing Hilux, which made its national championship debut in the 2011 season.
It is this vehicle that forms the basis of the evo Hilux currently under construction.
“We’ve taken the design of the vehicle to another level,” said Jardim. “Everything from the windscreen back has been tweaked. Each change, however small, has a knock on effect and affects everything else. We’ve added about 15 percent more tubes than we had in the original chassis. We’ve managed to do this with minimal weight gain by shortening some of the heavier tubes, rerouting some tubes and changing the location of others.”
Before construction of the new chassis began the CAD drawing of the safety cell that forms an integral part of the tubular structure had to be approved by the FIA and also pass a rollover protection test at MIRA (the British motor industry research association) in the UK.
This part of the chassis consists of 12 bent tubes and 27 straight tubes. The rest of the structure provides the mounting points for the components that make up the race car, including suspension, engine, gearbox, front and rear differentials and radiators.
The floor panels are welded on while the body panels are bolted on so that they can be easily removed for repair or replacement. The standard production steel body panels that have done duty so far will be replaced for 2013 by new ones made from lightweight composite materials.
A key element of Jardim’s design has been the objective of creating a vehicle that is ‘technician friendly’. “I try and picture the technician assembling the vehicle and, later on, working on it. I try to anticipate what they will be doing and make it easier for them. On an event like the Dakar, the technicians work long hours at the end of each day’s racing and any time we can save them by making the task of working on the vehicles easier, is time for them to sleep or relax. Also, the easier it is to work on the vehicle, the less chance there is of mistakes.”
Glyn Hall comments: “We’re very fortunate to have highly skilled and dedicated individuals on the team like Michael. This – and the knowledge and experience we have gained in designing, building and racing off road racing vehicles for the past 12 years – is our strength and will stand us in good stead in our quest to win the Dakar Rally with a true South African icon, the Toyota Hilux.
“This is a goal that Toyota and its primary sponsors, Imperial Toyota, Duxbury Netgear, SAA, Innovation Group and Toyota Financial Services have committed to achieving in the next three years. This is why we decided to build a brand new contender.”
Toyota Motorsport’s two-car team that will contest the 2013 Dakar Rally in Peru, Argentina and Chile from January 5 to 20 next year will also include an uprated version of the 2012 Hilux for current SA championship leaders Duncan Vos, a multiple former champion, and Rob Howie, who finished 10th overall in the Dakar at their first attempt.
Toyota Motorsport Acknowledges Its Dakar Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota, Imperial Toyota, Duxbury Netgear, SAA, Innovation Group, Toyota Financial Services, TFM, 4×4 Mega World, Blue Sky, Castrol, NGK, SKF, Spanjaard, Edgecam, Mastercraft, Donaldson and Oakley.