Toy­ota’s Dakar Team to take on Morocco

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING -

JOHANNESBURG — With the 2016 edi­tion of the Dakar Rally just over three months away, the Toy­ota SA Dakar Team are in the midst of pre­par­ing for the mam­moth event. As part of this prepa­ra­tion, the team is tak­ing part in the an­nual Rally of Morocco, which starts on Oc­to­ber 3 in the north African coun­try.

“To us, tak­ing part in Morocco of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to test our race ve­hi­cles in con­di­tions that are sim­i­lar to some parts of the Dakar,” ex­plained Toy­ota SA Dakar Team’s team prin­ci­pal Glyn Hall. “So it is a chance to see how our ve­hi­cles fare in ac­tual race con­di­tions, which mimic to a cer­tain de­gree the ter­rain of the Dakar.”

The Rally of Morocco forms part of the FIA’s Cross Coun­try World Cup, and as such many of the play­ers that will be lin­ing up at the start of Dakar 2016 will be tak­ing part. While many of the teams see this event as a real-world test for Dakar, it does of­fer a chance to see how the dif­fer­ent cars per­form in re­la­tion to one another.

“We’ll be tak­ing part with two ve­hi­cles this year,” con­tin­ued Hall. “Giniel de Vil­liers and Dirk von Zitze­witz ran one of our Toy­ota Hilux race ve­hi­cles here last year, and showed ex­cep­tional pace at the time. This year we’ve de­cided to give Leeroy Poul­ter and Rob Howie the op­por­tu­nity to take part too, though they will be driv­ing an older spec ve­hi­cle, mainly in or­der to gain ex­pe­ri­ence of the race.”

With that said, the team will also be test­ing a va­ri­ety of com­po­nents and sus­pen­sion set­tings in Morocco. The event starts on Oc­to­ber 5, with a 330 km stage near the Moroccan city of Zagora. This is fol­lowed by:

Stage 2 - Oct 6: 224 km, Loop of Drâa Stage 3 - Oct 7: 274 km, Loop of M’hamid Stage 4 - Oct 8: 293 km, Zagor-Agadir Stage 5 - Oct 9: 237 km, Loop of Agadir

“We had a good out­ing here last year,” said South Africa’s Dakar leg­end Giniel de Vil­liers.

“We had a cou­ple of prob­lems that stopped us from chal­leng­ing for the lead, but we ended up win­ning a stage be­fore the end. And we’re look­ing for­ward to driv­ing in the dunes of north Africa again.”

The sandy ter­rain makes nav­i­ga­tion a chal­lenge, and this is also good prepa­ra­tion for the two nav­i­ga­tors in the team, Dirk von Zitze­witz and Rob Howie.

“Over­all the Rally of Morocco is a mini ver­sion of the Dakar,” con­tin­ues Hall. “Which is ex­actly what we need at this point, not only in terms of the de­vel­op­ment of the Race Toy­ota Hilux, but also for the team to get into the right mind­set for the Dakar.”

De­vel­op­ment and test­ing will con­tinue back in South Africa, when the team re­turn on Oc­to­ber 11. “Af­ter that we’ll have one more big test ses­sion in South Africa, be­fore ship­ping the cars off to South Amer­ica for the race,” con­cluded Hall.

Fans can fol­low the for­tunes of the Toy­ota SA Dakar Team by vis­it­ing www.toy­ota.co.za, www.face­book.com/toy­ota­southafrica or by fol­low­ing @toy­otaSA on Twit­ter. — Supplied.

Poul­ter and Howie. PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

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