As part of its preparation for the 2018 Dakar Rally, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will be entering two cars in the Dakar Series: Rally China 2017. This grueling race takes place over seven days in Inner Mongolia, and is run by the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), who also organise the Dakar Rally.
“We’ve already shipped two of our Toyota Hilux vehicles over to China for the race,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “The rest of the team follows later in the month, as we prepare to take on what promises to be an extremely tough race.”
The highly experienced pairing of Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz will be taking charge of the first Toyota Hilux, with Argentine racer Lucio Alvarez, partnered with Cacha Rodríguez entered in the second Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux.
De Villiers is currently leading the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) and will be competing in the Sun City 400 as part of that championship before departing for China.
“I’ve got to stay focused on the local race for the moment, but at the same time I can’t wait to get to China for the Dakar Series,” says De Villiers of the upcoming race. “The conditions in China are designed to mimic those of the Dakar, so it’ll be great experience for us. Also, the race is run in exactly the same manner as the Dakar, so racing in China is invaluable.”
Alvarez is no stranger to Toyota, having campaigned a South African built Toyota Hilux in 2012 already – the first year of Toyota SA’s participation. Since then he has not only taken part in more Dakar Rallies in a Toyota Hilux, but also in the domestic Argentine championship. The man from Mendoza is certainly quick enough, and the harsh conditions of Mongolia will suit his attacking driving style.
“It’s great to be part of the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team,” says Alvarez. “I’ve spent a lot of time racing with Toyota, but being welcomed into the fold as part of the official entry is a highlight for me.”
For Hall, the most important thing for the team to get more miles under our belt: “The development of our latest Toyota Hilux is progressing extremely well, but as ever we will continue to test and develop a multitude of aspects on the car before shipping it off to South America for the Dakar later this year.”
The China Rally forms part of the Dakar Series – two special international races hosted and organised by the ASO. The Africa Merzouga Rally, however, is only open to motorbikes. This year’s race will see teams racing from near the Inner Mongolian town of Wuhai, through the Tenger Desert. After seven days of racing across dunes, rocks and sandy tracks, the race ends in FB-Festival south of Alxa.
Fans can follow the fortunes of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA on the Dakar Series: China Rally by liking Toyota SA’s Facebook page, or following the manufacturer on Twitter.