Three crews are officially set to represent the country in the 2024 Dakar Rally scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia from January 5th to 19th.
The confirmed lineup includes experienced drivers and a promising newcomer, although a setback sees veteran TGR driver Henk Lategan sidelined due to a shoulder injury sustained during the South African Rally-Raid Championship in October.
Gineil De Villiers, a seasoned driver with significant experience, will spearhead the team, partnered with navigator Denis Murphy. Joining De Villiers is Guy Botterill, a 37-year-old driver transitioning from rallying to rally-raid racing. While Dakar 2024 marks Botterill’s debut at the event, he will be supported by the experienced co-driver Brett Cummings.
The team’s youngest member, 18-year-old Sa’ood Variawa, will race alongside experienced French co-driver Francois Cazalet. Despite his age, Variawa has showcased his talent in rally raids, making his debut at the SARRC’s TGR 1000 Desert Race in June. His father, Shameer Variawa, a Dakar veteran and SARRC champion, owns GR DKR Hilux developer SVR Hallspeed.
All drivers will commandeer the Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+, the same vehicle that secured victory in both 2022 and 2023. The car will undergo enhancements for the 2024 race, with specific details set to be disclosed later. Reflecting on Toyota SA Motors’ history with the Dakar Rally, Glenn Crompton, the company’s vice-president of marketing, highlighted their inaugural participation in 2012 as a pivotal moment. Despite finishing third in their debut and improving to second the following year, the rally has remained a significant pursuit for Toyota SA Motors.
The upcoming Dakar Rally’s route for its fifth edition in Saudi Arabia will commence in AlUla, an ancient city dating back a thousand years. The rally will traverse Saudi Arabia toward the Empty Quarter and conclude in Yanbu, situated on the Red Sea’s shores. Race director David Castera anticipates a formidable challenge for competitors akin to the previous year. He warns of extensive stretches of challenging dunes, foreseeing navigation difficulties to complement the technical trials of navigating these terrains.