The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA 1000 Desert Race that kicks off in Upington on Friday will be notable not only for the continuation of the Toyota versus Ford battle, but for a whole new engine and setup in one of the Toyota Hiluxes.
The introduction of a new petrol-powered 3,5-litre turbo-charged V6 engine, and a new chassis to comply with changes in the FIA rules, has given the team the opportunity to explore a new power plant, together with the associated evolution of the tubular frame and geometry of the car.
“This is an exciting development for us, as the torque curve of the new turbo petrol engine, together with savings in weight and fuel consumption, is sure to set us in a new direction going forward,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “The chassis is a new design and offers many new possibilities for future development.”
The new engine, which is sourced from within the Toyota stable, has been rigorously tested on the dynamometer at the team’s HQ in Barbeque Downs. However, the Desert Race will be its first race outing, and the team is excited to see the new engine in action.
“The big question is, of course, who will be driving the new car at the Desert Race,” continues Hall. “At this point we haven’t made a final decision. We have four competent drivers campaigning in Upington, so we are somewhat spoilt for choice. At the same time, we have to consider the championship. But we’ll make a final decision early next week.”
TGRSA will be fielding four Toyota Hilux crews and the team will consist of Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy; Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings; Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen; and Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle.
Botterill has only completed one cross-country race with the team, though he and navigator Vacy-Lyle have multiple South African National Rally Championships under their belts together. Vacy-Lyle has also done a number of cross-country races in the championship in the past, so the pair will be looking to make the most of their first cross-country race together.
De Villiers will go into Round 3 in second place in the Production championship, just a single point behind fellow-Toyota Hillux racer, Johan Horn (Class T Malalane Toyota Hilux). De Villiers leads the Class FIA title chase, however, and will be looking to capitalise on the double points on offer at the Desert Race.
At the same time, Lategan will be hoping to score maximum points in Upington, in order to stay in touch with the championship leaders. The young driver missed out on the opening round of the season as he was still recovering from shoulder surgery. He narrowly missed out on a win at Round 2, and will be aiming to set his championship chase back on course at the upcoming event.
Finally, businessman Shameer Variawa missed out on Round 2 due to business commitments, but will be back in action for the TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race. He will be partnered with Stassen for the remainder of the season.