Toyota Gazoo Racing has confirmed it will enter four crews in the 2021 Dakar Rally, which will start on 3 January 2021 in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah.

The team will consist of Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel, Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro, rookie Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings, and Shameer Variawa and navigator Dennis Murphy.

Toyota says Al-Attiyah, who won in 2019 and placed second in 2020, will “spearhead” the team in 2021, with De Villiers providing able support. Lategan, meanwhile, will compete in his first Dakar Rally after recently securing the South African Cross-Country Series title for a second consecutive time, with Variawa making a return to the race (though with Toyota for the first time).

The crews will compete in the latest version of the Hilux, which is built and developed at the team’s headquarters near the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg. The vehicle is based on the racing Hilux introduced in 2018, featuring a mid-mounted engine, independent rear suspension and all-wheel drive.

Still, the Japanese firm says the racing Hilux has benefitted from “substantial development” thanks to the team competing locally in the South African Cross-Country Series. For 2021, the overall layout and geometry is unchanged, but refinements to the suspension and the naturally aspirated V8 engine have been made. The racing Hilux also takes on the standard bakkie’s refreshed front-end design.

“We are very excited about the 2021 edition of the Dakar Rally, especially given the circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reigned in a lot of motorsport during the course of this year,” said team principal Glyn Hall.

“As things stand, the race is set to go ahead early in the New Year, and we are overjoyed to be entering four proudly South African-built and developed Toyota Hilux in the race.”