Toyota Gazoo Racing SA has revealed the new two-wheel drive Hilux Evo that will compete at Dakar 2017, while also announcing the signing of top driver Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Opting for two-wheel drive, of course, allows for a set of rules with more freedom than is afforded to four-wheel drive competitors.
The latest version of the racing Hilux – revealed at the SA Festival of Motoring – ditches all-wheel drive in favour of two-wheel-drive, increased suspension travel, onboard tyre inflation and deflation, and a larger air restrictor.
The Hilux Evo boasts a significantly lower overall weight (with a target of around 1 300 kg compared to the 1 915 kg of this year’s 4×4 version). It also features noticeably larger wheels and tyres.
“Essentially, this is our take on what a two-wheel-drive Dakar challenger should be,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall.
“We’ve taken all the testing and real-world experience we gained with the four-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux over the past five years, and repackaged it in the lighter, faster Toyota Hilux Evo.”
The engine and transmission are housed between the two axles, giving the vehicle an advantage in terms of weight distribution.
“The important thing for us was to retain as much as possible from the previous vehicle in terms of suspension setup and engine tech. With this in mind we’ve stayed with the same proven, state-of-the-art V8 engine, and used all our knowledge when designing and setting up the suspension,” explained Hall.
Former Dakar winner Al-Attiyah (plus his navigator Matthieu Baumel), meanwhile, arrives to bolster a team already brimming with talent and Dakar experience.
Al-Attiyah will join Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter in the driver line-up for 2017, with De Villiers again partnered by German navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz. Poulter, meanwhile, will have Rob Howie beside him in the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux for their fourth Dakar together.
“Nasser has been extremely happy behind the wheel of our Toyota Hilux, winning round after round of the FIA’s World Cup,” said Hall.
“We’re looking forward to his input in the development of the new vehicle, and even more to him donning the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA colours for Dakar 2017.”