Lauberville Camp, Walvis Bay – After four days of testing in the Namib Desert near Walvis Bay, Toyota Motorsport’s preparations for its return to the Dakar Rally in South America in 2013 are in full swing.

Toyota Dakar 2013

2009 Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz and Imperial Toyota Hilux team-mates Duncan Vos and Rob Howie have travelled to this vast, open expanse of desert, some 32 kilometres south east of Walvis Bay and within 18 kilometres of the Atlantic Ocean, to take advantage of the combination of sand dune fields and gravel tracks closely resembling the geography they will experience in the Dakar Rally from January 5 to 20.

“Since our success in the 2012 Dakar we have continued our development of the Toyota Hilux in the Absa South African Off Road Championship, which is one of the toughest and most respected national championships in the world,” said team principal Glyn Hall.

 “Duncan and Rob are leading the championship after winning the last three rounds and Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin are second, so we are happy with our progress.  I’d say that the local championship satisfies 55% to 65% of what we need to know to tackle the next Dakar with confidence.

“The local championship gives us the opportunity to test the reliability of the vehicle’s components.  For the rest we’ve come to Namibia – for the sand dunes and the semi-desert environment that is so similar to geography of the South American coastal areas, specifically in Chile’s Atacama Desert, reputed to be the driest in the world.”

The team, under the ever-watchful eye of Hall, has been concentrating on setting up the chassis and suspension of the Hilux, with expert input from experienced race engineer and suspension specialist Roland Wall, who has travelled to Namibia from Germany as he did for the pre-2012 Dakar testing in Namibia.

Wall has worked previously with De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz when they finished in the top three in four Dakars before switching to the locally developed Toyota Hilux which finished third, fifth and 10th in this year’s Dakar.

The team will return to home base at Barbecue Downs near Kyalami tomorrow to complete preparations for the next round of the South African championship, the Sun City 400 in North West Province next weekend.