THE VEHICLE: EVOLUTION OF THE RACE TOYOTA HILUX
“A race vehicle is never finished – you keep evolving it until the flag drops, then you make the best of what you have at that point.” – Glyn Hall, Team Principal: Toyota Gazoo Racing SA
The Dakar-specification Toyota Hilux has seen significant development over the last five years. The first version was essentially an evolution of the cross-country race bakkie, developed for the 2011 South African Off-Road Championship (as it was then known). Since then, the vehicle has seen constant evolution thanks to an extended testing programme and technological advances. The result is one of the most successful petrol-powered vehicles ever to take part in the Dakar Rally.
Visually the new vehicle has seen the biggest change in its five-year history. The new body shell is designed to reflect the next generation Toyota Hilux, though in the case of the race vehicle the panels are rendered in ultra-lightweight composites, keeping the overall weight down as much as possible. Together with a striking new livery, the 2016 Dakar Toyota Hilux is an imposing beast of a machine.
But while the bodywork and livery might be the easiest changes to spot, the biggest change lies under the bonnet. This year the team will be fielding the all-new Lexus RC-F V8 engine – the most powerful 2UR-series engine ever built.
This new engine sports more efficient combustion and lower friction which, together with a wider degree of cam timing and electric inlet control, offers a significant improvement over the previous engine. With that said, the FIA still imposes restriction in terms of airflow into petrol engines for cross-country racing, and the new engine had to be adapted to make the most of the smaller influx of air into the engine.
“By working with the exhaust system, inlet manifold and engine mapping system, we managed to coax the most out of the engine without compromising its reliability,” says Hall.
The result is a highly flexible, reliable V8 motor that uses new technology such as a combination of direct injection and port injection, to generate in the region of 285 kW of power and over 600 Nm of torque. The torque curve is extremely flat, with most of the torque available from as low as 2,000 r/min, giving the Toyota Hilux the grunt it needs to tackle even the biggest dunes.
A new transmission system is also in place, utilising a new gearbox that has seen significant testing during the 2015 cross-country season. The transmission features a larger centre differential, despite being lighter than the system used in previous years.
For 2016 the Toyota Hilux also features a new Controller Area Network (CAN) electronic power distribution system, which is significantly lighter and more flexible than the traditional wiring harnesses used in the past.
The suspension is one of the components of a race vehicle that can be eternally tweaked and developed. With that said, the 2015 Dakar Toyota Hilux had an exceptional suspension setup, which has largely been carried over to the new version. Further development took place during the year, with major improvements for rally-type stages, as well as off piste sections.
“Overall we are confident that the latest evolution of the Dakar Toyota Hilux is ready to face the 2016 Dakar Rally. Unfortunately we’ll only really know how we stack up to the competition when the race gets going, but we have every reason to be confident,” says Hall.