JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Toyota Gazoo Racing will field four of the latest SA-assembled Hilux racing bakkies for the 2020 Dakar Rally – to be raced in Saudi Arabia – when the event starts in Jeddah on January 5.
Defending pair Nasser Al Attiyah (Qatar) and Mathieu Baumel (France) won the 2019 event as well as all other races during the year (except for the Rally of Morocco) so must be favourite for 2020 though South African team mate Giniel de Villiers and Spanish co-driver Alex Haro will, Toyota says, ”be pushing hard”.
De Villiers won the 2019 Rally of Morocco and has had the advantage of regularly testing the SA-built Hilux throughout the local cross-country championship. The third Toyota Hilux will be driven by Bernhard ten Brinke (Netherlands) alongside Belgian Tom Colsoul.
HALL: ‘I’M CONFIDENT’
Spaniards ex-F1 driver Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma will have the fourth SA-built Hilux. They’re said to have spent months in preparation but Alonso did admit ”I still have lots to learn.”
The 2020 Hiluxes will use the same suspension geometry and engine layout as the 2019 bakkies. The automaker explained: ”Testing in SA allowed the team to work on refinement and our team principal Glyn Hall is quietly confident of the latest version.”
Hall said: ”We’ve made significant gains while racing in the SA Cross-Country Series – our main test-bed. The gains have been incremental – unlike the evolutionary leap of the all-new bakkies two years earlier. However, when you add up all the improvements, I’m confident we’ll field the best Toyota Hilux yet.”
In addition to local testing, the Hilux has also competed in tough international cross-country races, among them the Silk Way, Qatar Cross-Country, and Morocco rallies – and won them all.
HEADING FOR EMPTY QUARTER
Recent ‘Dakar’ rallies (named for the original races across the Sahara Desert) in South America were affected by altitude thanks to crossings of the Andes mountain chain. The shift to Saudi Arabia will see the race run at lower altitudes – to the benefit of the non-turbo V8 engine in each Hilux.
The 2020 race will start in Saudi’s second city, Jeddah, on the Red Sea on January 5 then head to the city of Neom before heading south and inland along a course that will take the ‘Dakar’ through Saudi’s Empty Quarter for the second week of the race which will end in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, on January 17.
This the 42nd ‘Dakar’ will have 12 stages (plus a rest day) and cross mountains, riverbeds and desert dunes. Here’s the daily menu:
Dakar 2020 Key Dates:
02/01-05/01 Administrative and technical checks, Jeddah
05/01 Stage 1: Jeddah > Al Wajh, 752km / 319km SS
06/01 Stage 2: Al Wajh > Neom, 401km / 367km SS
07/01 Stage 3: Neom > Neom, 489km / 404km SS
08/01 Stage 4: Neom > Al Ula, 676km / 453km SS
09/01 Stage 5: Al Aula > Ha’il, 563km / 353km SS
10/01 Stage 6: Ha’il > Riyadh, 830km / 478km SS
11/01 Rest Day, Riyadh
12/01 Stage 7: Riyadh > Wadi Al-Dawasir, 741km / 546km SS
13/01 Stage 8: Wadi Al-Dawasir > Wadi Al-Dawasir, 713km / 474km SS
14/01 Stage 9: Wadi Al-Dawasir > Haradh, 891km / 415km SS
15/01 Stage 10: Haradh > Shubaytah, 608km / 534km SS MARATHON
16/01 Stage 11: Shubaytah > Haradh, 744km / 379km SS
17/01 Stage 12: Haradh > Qiddiyah, 447km / 374km SS
TOTAL DISTANCE = 7856km
SPECIAL STAGE DISTANCE = 5097km