Tough just got tougher – the Imperial Toyota Hilux 2012 and the toughest rally in the world


Tough just got tougher – the Imperial Toyota Hilux 2012 and the toughest rally in the world Tough just got tougher: the motto of the Imperial Toyota team from Johannesburg South Africa not only applied to the Rally Dakar itself, but particularly the capability of its new, robust Hilux 2012 prototype.

dakar south africa

Team Principal Glyn Hall’s crew got the V8-powered, 300-hp Hilux 2012 up and running in less than 100 days. Together with partner team Overdrive it also organised the complex Dakar logistics and ensured the technology ran reliably and flawlessly whilst actually at the Dakar.

They were faced with the toughest Rally Dakar ever: over the 3,892 kilometres of special stages – almost 9,000 kilometres in total – the V8 Hilux 2012 demonstrated its stability on a whole host of different terrains. As well as top-speed sections on solid, loamy ground and loose gravel, this year’s programme also included hazardous sections in Argentina’s Sierras Pampeanas, laltitudes of up to 3500 metres above sea level in the foothills of the Andes, tricky-to-navigate routes winding through the rugged, rocky landscape of the canyons, and the towering white dunes of Fiambalá.

Having crossed the Andes via the San Francisco Pass in snow and ice, the Dakar scenery changed dramatically: the rocky Atacama Desert presented the teams with new challenges in the form of huge amounts of dust and powdery guadal sand, and extremely soft dunes.

The third country on the way to the finish – Peru, uncharted territory for the Dakar – also threw up its own unique and new challenges.

The small but nasty dunes with their fine, soft sand, in particular, had even the favourites struggling. The Dakar remained true to its South American character in Peru: every single day presented the competitors with extremely varied terrain that could change within a matter of kilometres. Through all this, one thing remained tougher than tough: the Imperial Toyota Hilux.

Toyota hilux 2012

“Photographer: Danie van Jaarsveld Dakar Rally 2012”

Clever and case-hardened – de Villiers/von Zitzewitz and their own strengths

Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz formed a perfect combination with the reliable technology. The South African and his German navigator arrived at the start of the Rally Dakar with only 700 kilometres experience at the wheel of the Hilux 2012 – most competitors have completed at least ten times that figure.

With no real knowledge of the limits, the duo cautiously set about discovering just how far they could push the car. They were particularly level-headed in the overgrown dune sections, asking as little as necessary but as much as possible of the brand-new technology – and with success: they avoided damaging suspension components and drive technology, while their rivals pushed too hard.

The 2009 Dakar winners gradually made up ground. Right from the start of the rally they found themselves in the top five – the best they had dared to hope for coming into the desert marathon – even though the hot favourites from the X-raid team – the only semi-works team in the car category at the 2012 Rally Dakar – lined up with five highly-fancied Minis and a strong squad of drivers. “Ginny” and “Schnietz” were always there when it mattered: on the toughest stages, the climax to this year’s Dakar in Peru.

Crowd favourites in a pick-up – great sympathy for the Hilux 2012 Toyota 2012

The story of Dakar’s very own David going up against the mighty Goliath kept the experts, rivals and fans enthralled: starting as a real underdog, the number “301” Hilux 2012 pick-up belonging to the South African chain of dealerships Imperial Toyota soon won the hearts of the euphoric crowds. In 2011 five million people lined the Dakar stages in Argentina and Chile.

In 2012 the enthusiasm in the new Dakar country of Peru knew no bounds. All three host nations demonstrated incredible hospitality and created a unique and infectious atmosphere, which gave the teams an extra boost of motivation as the Dakar arrived in South America for the fourth time. The opposition also showed great respect for the outstanding performance of the number “301”.

DAKAR 2012 Flawless navigation – Dirk von Zitzewitz and the key to success

In no other motorsport discipline is the co-driver’s performance so pivotal in determining between success and failure. While the driver can make up fractions of a second per kilometre, a navigation error can result in minutes can quite literally being lost. A combination of perfect driving style and immaculate navigation allowed Imperial Toyota to claim its best individual result at the Rally Dakar: an inaccurate roadbook caused confusion on the penultimate stage, on which almost all of the top drivers got stuck at least once. The first top co-driver to discover the crucial waypoint and find a way out: Dirk von Zitzewitz, who, in doing so, secured the second fastest time of the day and third place overall.

Dakar Rally provisional overall classification

1. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 38h 54m 50s
2. Joan “Nani” Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 39h 36m 46s
3. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Imperial Toyota, 40h 08m 15s
4. Leonid Novitzkiy/Andreas Schulz (RUS/D), Mini, 41h 06m 40s
5. Robby Gordon/Johnny Campbell (USA/USA)*, Hummer, 41h 11m 39s
6. Lucio Alvarez/Bernardo Graue (RA/RA), Toyota Overdrive, 43h 00m 38s
7. Carlos Sousa/Jean-Pierre Garcin (P/F), Great Wall, 43h 25m 10s
8. Ricardo Leal dos Santos/Paulo Fiuza (P/P) Mini, 43h 58m 04s
9. Bernhard Ten Brinke/Matthieu Baumel (NL/F), Mitsubishi, 44h 06m 04s
10. Krzysztof Hołowczyz/Jean-Marc Fortin (PL/B), Mini, 45h 54m 24s
11. Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (ZA/ZA), Imperial Toyota, 46h 03m 17s
* Disqualified following peculiarity at a technical inspection, have appealed.

Rally Dakar: the winners 1979 – 2012

  • 1979 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Joseph Terbiaut/Jean Lemordant/Alain Genestier (F/F/F), Range Rover
  • 1980 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Freddy Kottulinsky/Gerd Löffelmann (S/D), Volkswagen
  • 1981 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    René Metge/Bernard Giroux (F/F), Range Rover
  • 1982 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Claude Marreau/Bernard Marreau (F/F), Renault
  • 1983 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Jacky Ickx/Claude Brasseur (B/F), Mercedes-Benz
  • 1984 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    René Metge/Dominique Lemoyne (F/F), Porsche
  • 1985 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Patrick Zaniroli/Jean da Silva (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 1986 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    René Metge/Dominique Lemoyne (F/F), Porsche
  • 1987 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Ari Vatanen/Bernard Giroux (FIN/F), Peugeot
  • 1988 Paris – Algiers – Dakar
    Juha Kankkunen/Juha Piironen (FIN/FIN), Peugeot
  • 1989 Paris – Tunis – Dakar
    Ari Vatanen/Bruno Berglund (FIN/S), Peugeot
  • 1990 Paris – Tripoli – Dakar
    Ari Vatanen/Bruno Berglund (FIN/S), Peugeot
  • 1991 Paris – Tripoli – Dakar
    Ari Vatanen/Bruno Berglund (FIN/S), Citroën
  • 1992 Paris – Sirte – Cape town
    Hubert Auriol/Philippe Monnet (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 1993 Paris – Tangiers – Dakar
    Bruno Saby/Dominique Serieys (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 1994 Paris – Dakar – Paris
    Pierre Lartigue/Michel Périn (F/F), Citroën
  • 1995 Granada – Dakar
    Pierre Lartigue/Michel Périn (F/F), Citroën
  • 1996 Granada – Dakar
    Pierre Lartigue/Michel Périn (F/F), Citroën
  • 1997 Dakar-Agades – Dakar
    Kenjiro Shinozuka/Henri Magne (J/F), Mitsubishi
  • 1998 Paris – Granada – Dakar
    Jean-Pierre Fontenay/Gilles Picard (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 1999 Granada – Dakar
    Jean-Louis Schlesser/Philippe Monnet (F/F), Schlesser-Renault
  • 2000 Dakar – Cairo
    Jean-Louis Schlesser/Henri Magne (F/F), Schlesser-Renault
  • 2001 Paris – Dakar
    Jutta Kleinschmidt/Andreas Schulz (D/D), Mitsubishi
  • 2002 Arras – Madrid – Dakar
    Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (J/F), Mitsubishi
  • 2003 Marseille – Sharm el Sheikh
    Hiroshi Masuoka/Andreas Schulz (J/D), Mitsubishi
  • 2004 Clermont – Ferrand – Dakar
    Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 2005 Barcelona – Dakar
    Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 2006 Lisbon – Dakar
    Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 2007 Lisbon – Dakar
    Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mitsubishi
  • 2008 Lisbon – Dakar
    Cancelled due to terror threat
  • 2009 Buenos Aires – Valparaíso – Buenos Aires
    Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Volkswagen
  • 2010 Buenos Aires – Antofagasta – Buenos Aires
    Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Volkswagen
  • 2011 Buenos Aires – Arica – Buenos Aires
    Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), Volkswagen
  • 2012 Mar del Plata – Copiapó – Lima
    Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini

“For me the 2012 Rally Dakar was a step back to my roots. After my touring car career, Glyn Hall’s troop was where I started out in off-road racing. I came full circle this year and tried to share all my experience with the team and to help them as much as possible. Our goal is clear: we want to play a major role at the Rally Dakar in the future. None of us expected to achieve such a big success this time round. I cannot say how proud I am of the guys, and also of mine and Dirk’s own performance. I think we made our own little piece of history.” Giniel de Villiers after 2012 Dakar Rally

“It is really true! Third place! Only when you actually reach the final time check are you actually relieved of the immense strain of the past few weeks, and it is replaced by a feeling of pure relief and joy. Starting the Rally Dakar as underdogs, a new team, with a new car and production-based technology, the expectations – even your own – are obviously not very high. However, we have far exceeded those expectations. It is thanks to an unbelievably motivated team, in which everyone pulled together and gave absolutely everything. Third place was our fantasy result, and now it is reality. One word: wow!” Dirk von Zitzewitz after 2012 Dakar Rally