The 34th running of the Dakar Rally in January 2013 will once again feature a number of intrepid South Africans and, notably, uniquely South African vehicles.  These include two Toyota Hilux V8 double cab pickups designed and built for the Dakar by Kyalami-based Hallspeed for Toyota Motorsport and backed by Toyota, Imperial Toyota, Duxbury Netgear, SAA, Innovation Group and Toyota Financial Services.

Toyota Hilux Dakar

The two Toyotas will be crewed by 2009 Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and 2012 SA off road champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, the same team that finished a remarkable third and 10th respectively in the 2012 Dakar Rally in South America at Toyota’s first attempt at the world’s longest and toughest motor race.

The racing Hilux pickups represent the best of South African technological and engineering expertise and are the result of years of development and practical experience in the South African off road championship, considered one of the strongest national championships in the world.

They are based on the production version and utilise standard components wherever possible. Due to the nature of the Dakar and its uniquely demanding requirements they are modified to cope with the extreme conditions encountered in the 9 000 kilometre 15-day race through Peru, Argentina and Chile.

Apart from the Group N engine, which is Toyota’s latest technology production 5,0-litre all-aluminium V8 fitted with a 36 mm air restrictor to meet Dakar regulations and a racing six-speed sequential gearbox from SADEV, built to Toyota Motorsport’s specifications, almost all the other components have been built in South Africa.

The engine is a showcase of modern technology and has a four variable cam system with the inlet cams controlled by electric motors and provides extremely accurate control over all rev ranges. Variable inlet cam length provides better and wider torque curve. The engine is fed by an electric throttle.

The Dakar Hilux features a Land Cruiser based rear-mounted radiator. The braking system was upgraded for racing conditions by SA-based Power Brake and has 320 x 32 mm ventilated discs all round and 6-piston calipers front and rear.

The wiring harness was made race-ready by Toyota Motorsport. Because of the 170 degrees Centigrade under-bonnet temperatures, the highest spec aeronautical cable and heat shielding is used for the engine management harness.

Eight separate sub-harnesses make up the wiring system and in total there were 450 metres of wire and 37 separate electrical connectors. Each harness was designed on a computer and then made by hand.

The safety roll cage was designed and built in-house using chrome-moly tubing. The cage is required for motor racing and not only provides safety but is also an integral part of the structure to increase torsional stiffness. The racing exhaust system, designed in-house, is handmade in the Toyota Motorsport workshop.

The vehicle is left-hand drive to conform to overseas export market requirements. Ground clearance has been raised to 300 mm and the vehicle conforms to the 1 975 kg weight class with two spare wheels fitted at the back. Special Rally Raid all-terrain competition tyres are made by Michelin.

The evolution version of the racing Hilux features a number of changes over the version that did so well in South America in January.

Team principal Glyn Hall explains: “The new Hilux is now probably 80% the same as when it finished the Dakar. “The 5-litre version of Toyota’s latest technology all-aluminium standard production V8 engine develops more torque than this year’s 4,6-litre version. This gives better performance in sand, but surprisingly makes little difference on gravel. The extra 40 kilograms puts us in a higher weight category, but doesn’t seem to hamper performance too much.

“The rules for Dakar 2013 are more in our favour,” added Hall.  “In January this year we ran to the 2013 rules, with a standard production engine, while our main competitors didn’t, so they enjoyed a power advantage and better weight distribution. This time they will be a lot closer to us and the playing field will be more level. We get a bigger restrictor – 36 mm instead of 35 mm – which will also help us.

“Changes we’ve made since the Dakar and tested in our national championship have made it a little easier to drive. We’ve got improved traction out of the corners, tighter turn-in and a better ride. We’re better off than we were at the end of this year’s race in terms of seconds per kilometre on gravel.

“In the dunes, we are very happy with the elements we’ve tested. We must remember that in the gravel on the Dakar we were pretty close to the winning cars, so the dunes are still an area where we have to improve.

“Although we’re proud of what we achieved in Dakar 2012, we’ve got to do better in 2013 and that’s a big challenge. There are a lot of good teams we have to beat and the competition is very strong. Toyota has committed to a three-year Dakar programme covering 2013 to 2015 and our aim is to win the race during this time.”

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, Ferodo, Spanjaard, Edgecam, Mastercraft, Donaldson and Oakley.