Gazoo Racing SA have announced their team destined for Dakar 2018. The Japanese manufacturer has been a force to be reckoned with in the Dakar Rally since first fielding a Toyota Hilux in 2012, and their latest all-new Toyota Hilux promises a leap forward which, combined with an all-star driver line-up, will ensure that Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is ready to take on the Dakar Rally in January 2018.

Toyota stalwart and former Dakar winner, Giniel de Villiers, will again partner with German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz. The pair last won the world’s most grueling automotive race in 2009, but have gone on to attain four podium finishes for Toyota.

De Villiers recently clinched the South African Cross-Country Series championship with a round to spare, with navigator Dennis Murphy beside him. The pair won four races on the trot, preserving Toyota’s unbeaten record in the series, which stretches back to 2015.

De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz will be joined in the line-up by Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and French navigator Mathieu Baumel. The pair also raced with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA at Dakar 2017, winning the opening stage and leading the Dakar before retiring on Stage 3. Al Attiyah and Baumel won their fourth FIA Cross-Country World Cup this year, their third in a Toyota Hilux, and they are looking forward to taking the all-new race vehicle into battle on Dakar 2018.

“The Toyota Hilux has a reputation for reliability and durability,” said Al Attiyah of the car. “This new version is sure to take all the best characteristics of the previous model, and deliver new levels of handling and balance thanks to its innovative design.”

The third crew in Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s line-up will be Dutch driver Bernard ten Brinke, who will have French navigator Michel Périn beside him in the Toyota Hilux. Ten Brinke is no stranger to the Dakar Rally, having taken part since 2012. He raced a Toyota Hilux as part of the Overdrive Racing team in 2016, but 2018 will be his first outing as a full works driver.

“I’m looking forward to being part of the factory team,” said Ten Brinke. “I’ve always had vast respect for the team, and even though our race car has come from South Africa in the past, I’m really proud to be incorporated as one of the team’s own drivers.”

The three crews will all be driving the all-new Toyota Hilux, which features a mid-engine layout and a fresh suspension geometry. The new car conforms to the latest rules as set out by the FIA, and will 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,” explains 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 bigger restrictor, 12% increase in suspension travel and lower weight is sure to play a large role, as Dakar 2018 starts in the big dunes of Peru, where the soft sand will sap the Toyota V8 of power. The race then moves to Bolivia, where the stages take place at extreme altitudes, before finally descending into northern Argentina for the final part of the race. The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally starts in the Peruvian capital of Lima on January 6th, and ends in the Argentine city of Cordoba on January 20th.

“The Dakar Rally is undeniably the world’s toughest automotive race,” concludes Hall. “The terrain, temperatures, altitude and navigation all play major roles. But to us it is also the ultimate challenge, and we are looking forward to continuing our quest for glory this coming January.”

The Dakar Rally remains the world’s greatest automotive race, bringing together more than 500 competitors from as many as 60 different nationalities. The race takes 15 days to complete, takes place in three countries and covers more than 10,000 km. It is, quite simply, the most spectacular motor race in history, and Thierry Sabine, the creator of the Dakar, summed it up like this: “A challenge for those who take part, a dream for those who watch.”

“The undeniable toughness of the Dakar Rally is a perfect fit for the Toyota Hilux,” says Calvyn Hamman, Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Toyota SA Motors. “Dakar provides us with a showcase for the legendary reliability of the Toyota Hilux, and we look forward to taking part in the 40th edition of this special race.”