THE RACE: DAKAR AND TOYOTA
The Dakar Rally is one of the greatest races on earth. It all started in 1977, when the founder of the race, Frenchman Thierry Sabine, got lost in the Ténéré Desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. By the following year, the Paris-Dakar was born, and 182 vehicles competed in the first event.
Through the years, the Paris-Dakar grew in popularity, and became the backdrop against which many legends were painted. While the race initially started in Paris, the organisers later changed to route to start at various places in Europe. The finish also varied, and by far the most audacious version of the rally was the 1992 Paris-Le Cap – starting in Paris and ending in Cape Town, South Africa.
Fears of a terrorist attack saw the 2008 race, scheduled between Lisbon and Dakar, cancelled. As a result of unrest in north Africa, the organisers sought a new location for the Dakar, and chose South America as its new host. The first South American edition took place in 2009, and was won by South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and German Navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz.
Since the move to South America, Toyota has been a key competitor in the world’s toughest motorsport event. During the 2015 race, 21 Toyota Hilux vehicles took part in the Dakar – more than any other brand. By far the majority of them were designed at Toyota’s Hallspeed facility near the famous Kyalami Racetrack, and many of them were built at the same facility.
For the 2016 edition of the Dakar, Toyota has been appointed as the official vehicle supplier to the race. This means that all the supporting staff and crew of the organisation will also be driving Toyota products.
Sadly the founding father of the race, Thierry Sabine, died in a helicopter accident on the event in 1986. His spirit lives on with the event, however, as more than 600 competitors entered the 2015 Dakar Rally.
The lure of the Dakar is too strong for many to resist, and winning the legendary event elevates a crew to a stage shared by only a handful of men (and even fewer women). With that said, Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt became the first and so far only woman to win the Dakar in 2001.
The Dakar Rally is an amazing race, requiring unparalleled infrastructure. The overnight camps, known as bivouacs vary in size between 3 km2 and 5 km2, depending on the location. This mobile HQ is erected fresh for each stage of the rally, and houses car wash facilities, race HQ, rest areas, showers and toilets, as well as an impressive kitchen that serves up to 10,000 meals per day.
But in the end all of the supporting staff and infrastructure pale into insignificance in the face of the race itself. Thirteen stages, nearly 10,000 km of driving – and in the end, just one winner.