Having returned from the 2018 Dakar Rally with silverware in hand – for their second and third place overall – Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is shifting its focus to the South African championships it competes in. Last year saw the team triumph in both the South African Cross-Country Series, and the National Rally Championship, and the team will be aiming for more of the same in 2018.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall advised that they had had a good year, with two podiums on the Dakar rally, however the elusive forst place eluded them again. Competing locally is a priority he said, and they were looking forward to both local rally championships.
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On the cross-country front, the team will be fielding its brand new, revolutionary Toyota Hilux, in near-identical spec to that used during this year’s Dakar Rally in South America. They will be using the championship to further develop and enhance the Hilux for 2019 Dakar.
The Toyota Hilux will compete in Class FIA of the South African Cross-Country Series, which means that South African fans will get to see the Dakar-spec vehicle in action locally. What’s more, Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers will be taking charge of one of the cars.
De Villiers, who finished third in the overall classification of Dakar 2018, will be partnered by navigator Rob Howie for 2018. Howie is, himself, a veteran of seven Dakars, most recently having navigated Toyota driver Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) to a tenth-place finish on Dakar 2018. Howie has also won the South African championship as navigator three times – 2012, 2015 and 2016.
De Villiers/Howie will be joined in the team by former rally driver Henk Lategan. Lategan cut his teeth in Class S2000 of the South African National Rally Championship during 2013, spending three years with the Volkswagen Rally team, and also competing in numerous international rallies. During 2017 he made the switch to cross-country racing, joining the Ford team as the third driver in their line-up.
Lategan will be joined by former champion navigator Dennis Murphy for 2018. Murphy formerly partnered multiple cross-country champion Anthony Taylor for Toyota, and his experience and calm demeanor will certainly aid Lategan during his first season with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will also be represented in Class T of the SACCS by brothers Johan and Werner Horn, who campaign the Malalane Toyota-backed Hilux. The brothers won the 2017 title after a tough battle with the Ford team, and are looking forward to defending their crown.
Toyota is also supported by a number of privateers, including the 4×4 Mega World Team. This year, former Class T champion Jason Venter, partnered by Vince van Alleman, makes the move to Class FIA; while younger brother Dylan will join the fray in Class T of the series.
In addition to competing in the local SACCS, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will also be taking part in a number of international races, as part of its preparation for Dakar 2019. The details will be announced in due course.
Back on home soil, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will also be represented in the South African National Rally Championship by defending multiple champions Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle.
The pair piloted their Class R2 Toyota Etios to a third consecutive championship in 2017, and will continue to fly the flag for the team.
The first national rally of 2018 is the Trade Brand Rally, which takes place on 9-10 March in Kwazulu/Natal. The SACCS gets under way a week later, with the Mpumalanga 400 in Dullstroom.
Toyota SA Motors Vice-President: Marketing, Glenn Crompton advised that the Hilux was a premier product that has performed well internationally and locally and they hoped this would continue into 2019.