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Toyota Gazoo Racing SA has announced its three-vehicle line-up for Dakar 2018, with veteran and former winner Giniel de Villiers leading the way.
De Villiers will again partner with German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, while Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah returns to the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA fold, again joined by French navigator Mathieu Baumel.
The third crew will be Dutch driver Bernard ten Brinke, with French navigator Michel Périn beside him. Ten Brinke raced a Hilux as part of the Overdrive Racing team in 2016, but 2018 will be his first outing as a full works driver.
All three crews will be driving the new Hilux, which features a mid-engine layout and what Toyota Gazoo Racing SA bills as “a fresh suspension geometry”. Indeed, the latest version of the vehicle has to conform to the latest FIA rules, and will thus race with a 38 mm air restrictor in Dakar 2018.
“The FIA has been working hard to try and balance the performance of the turbodiesel-powered cars and the naturally aspirated V8s, such as ours,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal, Glyn Hall. “This is an ongoing process, and while neither camp will probably ever be entirely happy with the rules, we are confident that the latest changes give us a better shot at Dakar 2018.”
The team expects the bigger restrictor, along with a 12% increase in suspension travel and a lower weight, to play “a large role” since the race starts in the dunes of Peru, where the soft sand traditionally saps the Hilux’s V8 of power. The race then moves to the extreme altitudes of Bolivia, before descending into northern Argentina for the final leg.
The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally starts in Lima on January 6 and ends in Cordoba on January 20.