• Former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers signs to drive for Toyota
  • Four times SA champion Duncan Vos in 2nd Imperial Toyota Hilux

Toyota South Africa has announced a proudly South African entry into the 33rd Dakar Rally which takes place in Argentina, Chile and Peru in January.

A Toyota Motorsport team of two South African-built and developed Toyota Hilux Double Cab pickups, under the management of team principal Glyn Hall and sponsored by Imperial Toyota together with Duxbury Netgear and the Innovation Group, will compete in the legendary cross country event over a distance of some 9 000 km over 14 days from January 1 to 15.

Imperial Toyota is part of the Automotive Retail Division of JSE-listed transport group, Imperial Holdings.  Duxbury is a specialist IT networking distributor and sole distributor of Netgear.  The CEO is former top motor sportsman and Daytona 24 Hour winner, Graham Duxbury.  The Innovation Group is a specialist global provider of software and outsourcing solutions to insurers and the associated fleet, automotive and property sectors.

The drivers of the two Imperial Toyota Hilux pickups, which will compete as the Imperial Toyota South Africa Team and sport unique branding sponsored by TFM company Signs For You, will be South Africa’s only Dakar Rally winner, Giniel de Villiers, who won the 2009 edition in South America, and Duncan Vos, four times South African off road champion.

De Villiers, a former South African touring car and off road racing champion, will be paired with German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, who navigated the 39-year-old Stellenbosch resident to his historic Dakar victory in 2009. The 42-year-old from Karlshof is a multiple former German motorcycle enduro champion and was rookie of the year on a KTM in the 1997 Dakar Rally.

He has competed in eight Dakars as a co-driver, the last four with De Villiers, who is a veteran of nine Dakar races. They were second in 2006, 11th in 2007, 7th in 2010 and 2nd in 2011. There was no event in 2008 owing to security problems in some North African countries. The last three events have all been held in South America.

Reading the route notes for Vos will be his regular national championship co-driver Rob Howie. Vos, 50, who owns a building materials wholesale business in Johannesburg, and Howie, 38, who is general manager of Toyota Motorsport, are currently lying joint second in the Absa Off Road Car Championship with two rounds remaining.  They will be competing in their first Dakar Rally.

A third Hilux has been built by Toyota Motorsport for top Argentine driver Orlando Terranova and will compete in January’s race with some support from Imperial Toyota.  This vehicle, the first to be built by Toyota Motorsport for a private customer, was air-freighted to Europe this week.  The other two Toyotas, which are currently contesting the local championship in the hands of Vos and Anthony Taylor, will be flown to Argentina after the final round in November.

“We are very excited and proud to be involved in the 2012 Dakar Rally through Imperial Toyota,” says Dr Johan van Zyl, President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors and Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation.  “It is a legendary event and the longest and toughest motor race in the world.  It is the supreme test of man and machine and we will be taking on this challenge with a proudly South African team and a racing version of the best-selling bakkie in South Africa.”

Dr Van Zyl added that it was particularly pleasing to be making this historic announcement in the year of Toyota South Africa’s 50th and Imperial Toyota’s 40th anniversary.

Hall, who will be managing an all-South African team with the exception of Von Zitzewitz, is under no illusions about the severity of the challenge.  “We’ve been there before and we know what to expect.  It’s a tough event with day-long stages each day and is a massive logistical challenge.

“We’ve assembled a great team and are privileged to have Giniel with us on this first Dakar with Toyota in the top class.  He is one of the few people to have won the Dakar and is rated as one of the top Rally Raid drivers in the world.

“We’re confident we can do South Africa proud.”

The Dakar Rally will start in the Argentine seaside resort of Mar del Plata on the Atlantic coast of South America and will finish almost 9 000 km later in the Peruvian capital Lima on the Pacific coast on January 15.

In between will be five racing special stages in Argentina, a crossing of the Andes mountain range, five stages in Chile including a crossing of the Atacama Desert before a rest day on January 8 in the Chilean town of Copiapo.  Then, for the first time, the rally enters Peru for four stages and a ceremonial finish.