The new Dakar GR Hilux gets a raft of technical changes that could improve its performance in the 2022 race. Picture: SUPPLIED
The new Dakar GR Hilux gets a raft of technical changes that could improve its performance in the 2022 race. Picture: SUPPLIED

Team Toyota Dakar Gazoo Racing SA driver and stalwart Giniel De Villiers is confident about the SA team’s prospects in the 44th edition of the Dakar rally to be held from January 1-14.

The next installation returns to the deserts of Saudi Arabia and the course now includes the Empty Quarter, a previously unused and sandy section in the area.  

The seven-time podium finisher and winner of the 2009 Dakar in Argentina with VW Motorsport said: “We always look forward to the new routes. I’ve spoken to the route organiser and we’re expecting a lot more sand. It’s a great country to have the Dakar in and we have always enjoyed racing there.”

The team’s all-new Dakar challenger, the GR DKR Hilux T1+, has been extensively revised to conform to updated regulations. It’s powered by a new 3.5l twin-turbo V6 engine sourced from the new Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport, and replaces the normally-aspirated 5.0l V8.

The car also features a suspension travel increase from 280mm to 350mm and the tyres are widened from 245mm to 320mm.

“I feel very excited for this edition. Last year I had 24 punctures and this year we are allowed the same size tyres as what the buggies had last year and the years before, which they always beat us with,” explained De Villiers.

For Dakar 2022, the team will field four of the all-new Hiluxes, with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel; Giniel de Villier and Denis Murphy; Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings; and Shameer Variawa and co-driver Danie Stassen.

Team Principal Glyn Hall said: “Our all-new Toyota GR DKR Hilux has progressed extremely well over the past few months of development, and we are confident it is now ready to take on the Dakar Rally.”

Al-Attiyah was the highest of the Hilux finishers last year, finishing second about 14 minutes behind winner Stephane Peterhansel. De Villiers was eighth, and nearly four hours behind.

Local rally driver Schalk Burger will also be competing in the 2022 Dakar. Picture: SUPPLIED
Local rally driver Schalk Burger will also be competing in the 2022 Dakar. Picture: SUPPLIED

Other locals competing in the 2022 Dakar are Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne; Geoffrey Minnitt and Siegfried Rousseau; Brian Baragwanath with Leonard Cremer; Schalk Burger and Henk Janse van Vuuren; and Mark Corbett with co-driver Rodney Burke.

The local Toyota Gazoo Racing outfit joins a highly-decorated contingent of competitors including multiple Dakar winners Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz, and former World Rallycross and DTM champion Mattias Ekström, the trio spearheading Audi’s Dakar debut with the RS Q E-tron petrol-electric hybrid car.

Audi hopes to be the first manufacturer to take overall victory with an electrified powertrain. Frenchman Peterhansel has won the Dakar a record 14 times, including this year. Spaniard Sainz triumphed in 2020 with both drivers recently competing for the X-Raid Mini JCW team.

Also turning up the heat will be nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb who returns to Dakar with the Prodrive team. He will once more have decorated navigator Daniel Elena by his side with another Dakar legend, Nani Roma and his new co-driver Alex Haro, also vying for victory with the Prodrive team.

On the motorcycle front, double MotoGP race winner Danilo Petrucci will switch from a road racing KTM to a rallying version for his Dakar debu. The Italian will remain with KTM and Tech3 and completed some desert running in Dubai ahead of the final MotoGP rounds of 2021. 

Audi Sport's new hybrid racer will form part of the 2022 Dakar start line on the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Picture: SUPPLIED
Audi Sport's new hybrid racer will form part of the 2022 Dakar start line on the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Picture: SUPPLIED
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