Four cars and a whole new race beast is the attack plan from Toyota Gazoo Racing for the 2022 Dakar Rally taking place in Saudi Arabia from January 2.
The works team will be spearheaded by Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel. Giniel de Villiers will be partnered with navigator Dennis Murphy; Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings will return for their second Dakar, and Shameer Variawa will now be partnered with navigator Danie Stassen.
The team will also be fielding an all-new Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+, which conforms to the updated regulations for the T1 category. The prototype car, in temporary raw carbon fibre finish, is currently undergoing testing in preparation for an official reveal later in 2021.
Since finishing second at the 2021 edition of the race, 2019 winners Nasser (Qatar) and Mathieu (France) have powered to victory in the Andalucia Rally; as well as the Baja Spain Aragon. The pair, who won the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies three consecutive times, will be aiming to add a fourth Dakar victory to their resume in 2022.
Giniel and Dennis, both from South Africa, have competed successfully in the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS), which also serves as a testbed for the continued development of the Toyota Dakar Hilux. They were in the lead of the title chase after three of the seven rounds that make up the series.
With a crash on Stage 5 of Dakar 2021 forcing South Africans Henk and Brett to retire after posting highly competitive times on Stages 3 and 4, they will be keen to show their pace and mix it up with the more experienced crews ahead of them. Henk’s Dakar debut drew global attention, and the young driver from Johannesburg, who has won the SACCS crown multiple times, will be looking to build significantly on that experience.
Finally, Shameer and Danie, also from South Africa, will complete the four-car team. Shameer, who has won multiple championships in South Africa, finished his first Dakar in 2021, but will now have Danie doing navigational duties. This will be Danie’s first Dakar, but he campaigns in the SACCS together with Shameer, so the two should find it easy to gel in the car.
The new Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ will share components with the Hilux that was first introduced in 2018, and won the race in 2019, but will feature a host of improvements including bigger running gear – tyres of 37 inches, up from 32 inches; together with a tread increase from 245 mm to 320 mm. The new car also has more suspension travel with the previous limit of 280 mm now increased to 350 mm.
Under the hood, the car is now equipped with a 3,5-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 engine, sourced from the all-new Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR-S . In standard form, the engine produces 305 kW of power at 5 200 r/min and 650 Nm of torque from 2 000 r/min. However, in race trim, those numbers are significantly higher.
Dakar 2022 will again be based solely in the Saudi Arabian desert, though the race follows a clockwise route this time. The race will start on January 2 in the northern city of Ha’il, before traversing southward to the Empty Quarter. The rest day will be in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on January 8, before the race heads south-westward to the finish in the city of Jeddah on January 14.
The race will kick off with a prologue to determine the starting positions for Stage 1. Two looped stages will also feature on the route, though the details have yet to be announced by the organisers. Finally, the traditional Marathon Stage will see the crews race away from the main bivouac to an unsupported encampment for an overnight stop, before racing back to rejoin their technical crews at the main bivouac. This is a challenging part of the race, that often plays a major role in its outcome.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “We are very pleased to announce a team that is very similar to last year. With Nasser and Giniel heading up our attack, and Henk gaining confidence, we are excited to take on the 2022 edition of the Dakar Rally. Our new GR DKR Hilux T1+ is progressing well, and we are confident that the new car will allow us to compete on a new level, come January.”