- Upington testing over – now real thing
- Only two teams now for 2017 Dakar
- New route traverses South America
UPINGTON, South Africa – Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, its final pre-Dakar 2017 testing done and, er, dusted, has announced two trucks for the South American endurance race.
The 10 000km race will start in the Paraguyan capital, Asunción, in the north-central area of South America, on January 2 2017, head west then north to La Paz in Bolivia before turning due south to San Juan in Bolivia and then east to cross the sub-continent to the finish in the Argentine port of Buenos Aires.
The crews are scheduled to reach the finish on January 14.
For the benefit of younger race fans, the Dakar is named for the city on the north-west coast of Africa; the race was originally run from the French capital, Paris, then through the Sahara desert to Dakar. It was known as the Paris-Dakar.
A war situation in North Africa in 2001 forced that race to be cancelled and the event was later moved to similar desert territory in South America and simply called ‘The Dakar’ in commemoration of history that had been made in Africa since 1979.
The South African team’s crews will be former Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz and Nasser al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel. That will make it a multi-national team: De Villiers is South African, Von Zitzewitz is German; al-Attiyah is Qatari and Baumel French – the latter pair used to race the Dakar for Mini.
South African Leeroy Poulter, fifth in the 2016 Dakar and a regular competitor, won’t be racing: the current SA Cross-Country and Rally champion recently had surgery and is still recovering.
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz have campaigned together in a Toyota Hilux bakkie in the Dakar since 2012 and have made the podium after all but one race.
They’ve proved accomplished campaigners and have won once. De Villiers has one of the highest start-to-podium ratios in Dakar history and has missed out on a Top 10 finish only once since he first tackled his first.
Al-Attiyah and Baumel are new to the Gazoo team but not strangers to the Hilux. They drove a South-African built unit in the 2016 FIA Cross-Country World Cup, won every round they entered, and won the championship.
They also won the October 2016 Rally of Morocco – an excellent precursor to the next Dakar to be raced through the first two weeks of January 2017.
New for 2017 is the team’s partnership with Red Bull, an Austrian company that already supports De Villiers and al-Attiyah.
The crews will tackle Dakar 2017 with proven all-wheel drive Hiluxes – the same model that took al-Attiyah/Baumel to glory in the FIA World Cup, though with a number of developments and performance advances.
Team boss Glyn Hall told The Corner in a media release: “We’re excited about the Toyota Hilux Evo that was unveiled earlier this year.
“Despite the promising performance of the car (it was first tested with only rear-wheel drive) we found significantly more performance from all-wheel drive during parallel testing.
“This, with Nasser/Matthieu’s wins, made clear that the 4×4 is more than capable.
“The 4×4 Hilux has been extremely reliable. Now, with a bigger air-restrictor – due to most of the South American Dakar being raced at an average altitude above 2000m – the bakkies are sure to perform well.
“We’re also in the fortunate position of having two of the world’s most experienced crews. Giniel and Dirk have performed consistently well on the Dakar and Nasser/Matthieu have just won the World Cup – that’s in addition to winning the the 2011 and 2015 Dakars..
“We have the best-of-the-best driving our proven all-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux for Dakar 2017.”
PERFORMANCE ‘HIGHLY ENCOURAGING’
The team has just completed final testing near Upington in the Northern Cape where the rough and sandy terrain tested the Hiluxes in conditions similar to those expected on many Dakar stages, including rock and soft dunes.
Hall said: “Their performance was highly encouraging and it was great to have Nasser and Matthieu here in South Africa to put the truck through its paces and supply feedback for the race.”
Next, the team says, will be the huge task of packing for South America and cataloguing thousands of spares for shipping to the Paraguayan capital of Asunción ahead of the start on January 2.
The race will cross Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina to finish in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, on January 14 after covering nearly 10 000km – the world’s most gruelling motor race.
Race programme below the image.
Here’s the race programme
31/12 and 01/01: Administrative and technical checks, Asunción (Paraguay)
02/01: Start podium in Paraguay, stage to Resistencia (Argentina)
03/01: Resistencia – San Miguel de Tucuman
04/01: San Miguel de Tucuman – San Salvador de Jujuy
05/01: San Salvador – Tupiza (into Bolivia)
06/01: Tupiza – Oruro
07/01: Oruro – La Paz
08/01: La Paz Rest Day
09/01: La Paz – Uyuni (Marathon Stage)
10/01: Uyuni – Salta (into Argentina)
11/01: Salta – Chilecito
12/01: Chilecito – San Juan
13/01: San Juan – Río Cuarto
14/01: Río Cuarto – Buenos Aires