Toyota is al­most ready to bat­tle with the Pug in Dakar, this time us­ing only two wheels.

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

DAKAR rac­ing teams are pre­par­ing for a big race come De­cem­ber, fet­tling new race ma­chines that range from trucks to quad bikes.

The main stage, how­ever, be­longs to the race cars, and this year all eyes are on the reign­ing Red Bull Pug and the all­new Hilux chal­lenger.

The Pug that Team Peu­geot To­tal and Red Bull will ship to South Amer­ica in a few weeks for the 2017 Dakar car is of­fi­cially called the 3008 DKR.

It has more torque at lower revs, a re­vised sus­pen­sion and a new black-and­white wardrobe than the 2008 in which Peu­geot won the 2016 Dakar with Stéphane Peter­hansel and the Silk Way Rally last month, with Cyril De­spres at the wheel.

Peu­geot said in a state­ment the lat­est Peu­geot has tweaked sus­pen­sion and damper set­tings and the driv­ers can now stay cool with air-con in the 3008 DKR.

“Air con­di­tion­ing may sound like an un­nec­es­sary lux­ury in a race car, but Peu­geot be­lieves it will help team mem­bers per­form at a higher level while do­ing 12hour stints in­side a cock­pit that reg­u­larly spikes over 60°C,” the state­ment read.

New engine reg­u­la­tions also means Peu­geot has to drop down from a 39 mm to a 38 mm unit, los­ing about 20 kW in the process. Peu­geot said its re­worked three-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel engine now makes more torque at lower revs, which should make the car eas­ier to drive and pos­si­bly faster on the rough Dakar course.

In the Toyota cor­ner, the driv­ers for Toyota Ga­zoo Rac­ing, how­ever, think their rac­ing bakkies will ben­e­fit more this year from Dakar re­stric­tor reg­u­la­tions.

Giniel de Villiers and nav­i­ga­tor Dirk von Zitze­witz last month tested the new two-wheel-drive rac­ing Hiluxes, which are built near the Kyalami Race­track, in the North West.

The new ve­hi­cle no longer uses a four­wheel-drive sys­tem, and it is go­ing to very in­ter­est­ing to see if the team’s gam­ble with rear-wheel-drive-only pays off.

The all-wheel-drive sys­tems cur­rently rule the cross coun­try roost in the lo­cal Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship, with Leeroy Poul­ter and nav­i­ga­tor Rob Howie lead­ing the cham­pi­onship. Team prin­ci­pal Glyn Hall said re­sults of the first real-world test for the rear­wheel-drive Toyota Hilux Evo were highly en­cour­ag­ing.

“The new ve­hi­cle is sig­nif­i­cantly faster over the rough stuff,” said De Villiers at the com­ple­tion of the test ses­sion. “Granted, it takes some get­ting used to, and it cer­tainly doesn’t feel the same as the four-wheel-drive. But man, it is quick!”

Team Toyota Ga­zoo rac­ing still have a lot of tests to do and are cut­ting it fine be­fore the SAA Cargo plane flies to de­liver three new rac­ing Hiluxes to De Villiers and Von Zitze­witz; Leeroy Poul­ter and Rob Howie; as well as the new sign­ings, Nasser Al-At­tiyah and Matthieu Baumel.

GINIEL DE VILLIERS Toyota Ga­zoo Rac­ing driver ‘The new ve­hi­cle is sig­nif­i­cantly faster over the rough stuff.’

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

In the Toyota cor­ner, the new rear-wheel-drive Hilux has al­ready proven lighter and a lot faster.

PHOTO: PEU­GEOT

In the Peu­geot cor­ner, the 3008 DKR, tweaked to be stronger and maybe a lot faster than the 2016 win­ner.

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