Toyota Gazoo Racing SA All Set To Tackle 2016 Dakar Rally

Toyota SA Motors is pleased to announce the team that will tackle to 2016 Dakar Rally, which takes place from January 2nd to 16th in Argentina and Bolivia. The race, often billed as the toughest motorsport event in the world, will see three race Toyota Hilux vehicles from South Africa take part under the new team name of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA.

The new name reflects a global move by the Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) to unify its racing efforts, and will be expanded to include more racing formulae during 2016. The word ‘Gazoo’ has a long and proud history in Japan, and is synonymous with driving pleasure, fun and racing excellence.

For 2016, the new name will be proudly displayed on the three race Toyota Hilux vehicles that will compete at Dakar. These vehicles will be the New Generation Hilux which debuts in South Africa during February 2016. The latest evolution of the locally developed and built race Toyota Hilux features a new engine and transmission, with many refinements to the suspension and electronic systems, in addition to the bodywork being aligned with the latest New Generation Toyota Hilux.

These vehicles will be crewed by Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and his long-serving German navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz; South African Cross-Country champions Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie; and Saudi racing sensation Yazeed Al Rajhi and German navigator Timo Gottschalk.

Al Rahji and Gottschalk campaigned a privately-entered Toyota Hilux during the 2015 Dakar Rally, and impressed all by running in third place until a technical problem halted their progress. Now, as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team, Al Rahji and Gottschalk will enjoy additional support and the expertise of the technical crew on the event.

“It is an exciting time for us,” says Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Calvyn Hamman. “We’ve done a lot of development on the race Hilux this year. Now, with a three-car team, we feel that we’re in a better position than ever to take on the Dakar.”

The Argentine capital of Buenos Aires plays host to the start of the 2016 Dakar, on January 2nd, 2016. This is followed by 13 tough stages, stretching away from Buenos Aires and into Bolivia, before turning southwards again to the finish in the Argentine city of Rosario on January 16th, 2016.

The 2016 route was changed as a result of the country of Peru withdrawing from the race. This means that the bulk of the Dakar takes place in Argentina this time, though the stages on the high plains of Bolivia (altiplano) will add the element of extreme altitude to this edition of the race.

“The Dakar remains an amazingly tough race,” says Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, Glyn Hall. “There are many surprises along the way, and winning it is never easy. With that said, the latest evolution of our race Toyota Hilux, together with a highly talented and motivated crew, certainly gives us a great shot at it. But if there’s one thing you can count on at Dakar, it is that there’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing’.”


The Dakar Rally is one of the greatest races on earth. It all started in 1977, when the founder of the race, Frenchman Thierry Sabine, got lost in the Ténéré Desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. By the following year, the Paris-Dakar was born, and 182 vehicles competed in the first event.

Through the years, the Paris-Dakar grew in popularity, and became the backdrop against which many legends were painted. While the race initially started in Paris, the organisers later changed to route to start at various places in Europe. The finish also varied, and by far the most audacious version of the rally was the 1992 Paris-Le Cap – starting in Paris and ending in Cape Town, South Africa.

Fears of a terrorist attack saw the 2008 race, scheduled between Lisbon and Dakar, cancelled. As a result of unrest in north Africa, the organisers sought a new location for the Dakar, and chose South America as its new host. The first South American edition took place in 2009, and was won by South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and German Navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz.

Since the move to South America, Toyota has been a key competitor in the world’s toughest motorsport event. During the 2015 race, 21 Toyota Hilux vehicles took part in the Dakar – more than any other brand. By far the majority of them were designed at Toyota’s Hallspeed facility near the famous Kyalami Racetrack, and many of them were built at the same facility.

For the 2016 edition of the Dakar, Toyota has been appointed as the official vehicle supplier to the race. This means that all the supporting staff and crew of the organisation will also be driving Toyota products.

Sadly the founding father of the race, Thierry Sabine, died in a helicopter accident on the event in 1986. His spirit lives on with the event, however, as more than 600 competitors entered the 2015 Dakar Rally.

The lure of the Dakar is too strong for many to resist, and winning the legendary event elevates a crew to a stage shared by only a handful of men (and even fewer women). With that said, Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt became the first and so far only woman to win the Dakar in 2001.

The Dakar Rally is an amazing race, requiring unparalleled infrastructure. The overnight camps, known as bivouacs vary in size between 3 km2 and 5 km2, depending on the location. This mobile HQ is erected fresh for each stage of the rally, and houses car wash facilities, race HQ, rest areas, showers and toilets, as well as an impressive kitchen that serves up to 10,000 meals per day.

But in the end all of the supporting staff and infrastructure pale into insignificance in the face of the race itself. Thirteen stages, nearly 10,000 km of driving – and in the end, just one winner.


The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team for the 2016 Dakar Rally consists of three crews. Each of the pairings have proven themselves in the past, and there can be no doubt of the talent and commitment of the six men who will pilot the latest evolution of the South African built and developed race Toyota Hilux.

Giniel de Villiers, a former winner of the Dakar, will again be in action with his highly experienced navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz. The pair has been together since 2007, and handed Volkswagen their first Dakar win with the diesel Touareg in 2009. Since the move to Toyota in 2012, De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz have recorded finishes of 3rd (2012), 2nd (2013), 4th (2014) and 2nd again in 2015.

De Villiers has only finished outside the Top 10 on the Dakar Rally once, back in 2007 when his vehicle suffered an engine fire while in the lead of the race. This makes De Villiers one of the most successful Dakar racers of all time, and a second victory is certainly in his sights.

For Von Zitzewitz, the Dakar journey started back in 1997, when he rode a KTM motorcycle to fifth place overall. In 2002 the German moved from motorcycles to the navigator seat, partnering America’s Mark Miller. Next came a sting with the Volkswagen team, as partner to Robby Gordon in 2005, and Miller again in 2006. He teamed up with De Villiers in 2007, winning the event in 2009, and becoming part of the Toyota family with De Villiers in 2012.

The second crew will feature newly crowned Donaldson Cross-Country champions, Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie. The pair have competed in two previous Dakar Rallies together, and have built up a strong rapport after many hours together in the Toyota Hilux.

This year saw Poulter/Howie win all but one round of the local cross-country championship, allowing them to secure the 2015 championship with one round to spare. Poulter is also a former South African national rally champion – with high-speed skill that will serve him well on many of the twisty routes of the 2016 Dakar Rally.

A new addition to the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team is that of Saudi racing sensation, Yazeed Al Rajhi, partnered by the highly experienced Timo Gottschalk. The pair entered a South African-built Toyota Hilux during the 2015 race, and performed extremely well by running in third overall. Unfortunately, a small technical problem put paid to their charge, and they were forced to retire.

Al Rajhi is a household name in Saudi Arabia, thanks mainly to his prowess as a racing driver. He competes in the World Rally Championship too, and have notched up a number of podium finishes in the WRC2 class. Gottschalk is no stranger to Dakar, having competed there since 2007. He won the event with Nasser Al-Attiyah in 2011, and partnered with Carlos Sainz in the 2013 edition of the race, before joining Al Rajhi in 2015.

CAR 1: Race number 301
Driver – Giniel de Villiers (RSA)
Navigator – Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany)

CAR 2: Race number 316
Driver – Leeroy Poulter (RSA)
Navigator – Rob Howie (RSA)

CAR 3: Race number 305
Driver – Yazeed Al Rajhi (Saudi Arabia)
Navigator – Timo Gottschalk (Germany)


“A race vehicle is never finished – you keep evolving it until the flag drops, then you make the best of what you have at that point.”
- Glyn Hall, Team Principal: Toyota Gazoo Racing SA

The Dakar-specification Toyota Hilux has seen significant development over the last five years. The first version was essentially an evolution of the cross-country race bakkie, developed for the 2011 South African Off-Road Championship (as it was then known). Since then, the vehicle has seen constant evolution thanks to an extended testing programme and technological advances. The result is one of the most successful petrol-powered vehicles ever to take part in the Dakar Rally.

Visually the new vehicle has seen the biggest change in its five-year history. The new body shell is designed to reflect the next generation Toyota Hilux, though in the case of the race vehicle the panels are rendered in ultra-lightweight composites, keeping the overall weight down as much as possible. Together with a striking new livery, the 2016 Dakar Toyota Hilux is an imposing beast of a machine.

But while the bodywork and livery might be the easiest changes to spot, the biggest change lies under the bonnet. This year the team will be fielding the all-new Lexus RC-F V8 engine – the most powerful 2UR-series engine ever built.

This new engine sports more efficient combustion and lower friction which, together with a wider degree of cam timing and electric inlet control, offers a significant improvement over the previous engine. With that said, the FIA still imposes restriction in terms of airflow into petrol engines for cross-country racing, and the new engine had to be adapted to make the most of the smaller influx of air into the engine.

“By working with the exhaust system, inlet manifold and engine mapping system, we managed to coax the most out of the engine without compromising its reliability,” says Hall.

The result is a highly flexible, reliable V8 motor that uses new technology such as a combination of direct injection and port injection, to generate in the region of 285 kW of power and over 600 Nm of torque. The torque curve is extremely flat, with most of the torque available from as low as 2,000 r/min, giving the Toyota Hilux the grunt it needs to tackle even the biggest dunes.

A new transmission system is also in place, utilising a new gearbox that has seen significant testing during the 2015 cross-country season. The transmission features a larger centre differential, despite being lighter than the system used in previous years.

For 2016 the Toyota Hilux also features a new Controller Area Network (CAN) electronic power distribution system, which is significantly lighter and more flexible than the traditional wiring harnesses used in the past.

The suspension is one of the components of a race vehicle that can be eternally tweaked and developed. With that said, the 2015 Dakar Toyota Hilux had an exceptional suspension setup, which has largely been carried over to the new version. Further development took place during the year, with major improvements for rally-type stages, as well as off piste sections.

“Overall we are confident that the latest evolution of the Dakar Toyota Hilux is ready to face the 2016 Dakar Rally. Unfortunately we’ll only really know how we stack up to the competition when the race gets going, but we have every reason to be confident,” says Hall.


For the 2016 edition of the world’s toughest automotive event, the route features stages in both Argentina and Bolivia. The 2016 Dakar Rally gets under way with the traditional ceremonial start in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 2nd. Thirteen stages follow, including a short stint in Bolivia, before the action draws to a close in the Argentine city of Rosario on January 16th.

“This year’s route features a lot of rally-type stages, which are more technical for the drivers,” explains Hall. “But there are also plenty of dunes and high altitude stages, so a typical Dakar despite Peru’s withdrawal.”

Three main regions of Argentina will play host to the 2016 Dakar Rally. Nearly fifteen million people live in Greater Buenos Aires, which has emerged as an economic and cultural hub of South America. The striking diversity of its neighbourhoods, from the modernity of Puerto Madero to the faded charm of Palermo and the bustling quarters of La Boca and San Telmo, thrills even the most widely travelled visitors. For the Dakar, however, the Argentine capital represents much more than a tourist destination. It is, above all, here that it all began (again)! After the 2008 edition was cancelled, the rally needed to bounce back and Porteños welcomed drivers from Europe, Africa and Asia with the same enthusiasm as it reserved for its own countrymen. For everyone, the memories of the crowds gathered on the Avenue 9 de Julio, at the foot of the Obelisk, symbolised the start of a new era.

Situated at the foot of the Andes Cordillera, Salta prospered for a long time as a trading centre. The city also played an important role in the fight for independence led by General Belgrano. Today, it is essentially a major tourist centre for adventurers heading for the mountains. Travellers also take advantage of Salta’s majestic cathedral, which is one of the country’s most remarkable religious buildings. It might be useful for the Dakar’s competitors, who will only be at the half-way point in their journey on reaching Salta, to pass by the cathedral to say a few prayers…

The blue and white stripes proudly worn by the football or basketball national teams, champions the world over through victories at the World Cup and the Olympic Games, were originally created in Rosario. By playing host to the drivers and teams of the Dakar during the first few days of 2014, Rosario became a part of the rich national history of motor sports. This time it will be the ultimate target for all the drivers and teams.

The programme for the 2016 edition of the Dakar Rally is as follows:

31/12 and 01/01: Administrative and technical checks, Buenos Aires
02/01: Start podium in Buenos Aires / Prologue
03/01: Buenos Aires - Villa Carlos Paz
04/01: Villa Carlos Paz - Termas de Río Hondo
05/01: Termas de Río Hondo - Jujuy
06/01: Jujuy - Jujuy
07/01: Jujuy – Uyuni (Bolivia)
08/01: Uyuni – Uyuni (Bolivia)
09/01: Uyuni - Salta
10/01: Rest day in Salta
11/01: Salta - Belén
12/01: Belén - Belén
13/01: Belén - La Rioja
14/01: La Rioja - San Juan
15/01: San Juan - Villa Carlos Paz
16/01: Villa Carlos Paz – Rosario


Short of attending the 2016 Dakar Rally, there are a number of exciting ways to be part of the action. In addition to the daily TV broadcasts on SuperSport, media and fans can also use the following channels to stay up to date with the race: - links to Toyota’s motorsport website, where information on the team will be updated daily (@toyotasa) – blow-by-blow updates on the team throughout the race - daily updates on the fortunes of the team throughout the race

In addition to these websites, the Dakar Rally also has its own app for both iOS and Android devices, which can be downloaded free of charge from either iTunes or the Google Play Store.

Hashtags to look out for and use include:

#toyotaSAracing – Toyota-specific updates
#gazooracingSA – All team-related updates
#dakar2016SA – General updates on South Africans taking part in Dakar 2016

Twitter Handles include:

@therealginiel – Giniel de Villiers
@leeroypoulter – Leeroy Poulter
@YazeedRacing – Yazeed Al Rajhi
@rallyedakar – Dirk von Zitzewitz
@robhowie72 – Rob Howie
@dakar – Dakar Rally