Toyota Gazoo Racing to field three South African crews at Dakar 2024
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa has confirmed it will be fielding three crews at the 2024 Dakar Rally, with all three drivers hailing from Mzansi.
All will be piloting the same Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+, which attained the top step of the podium in 2022 and 2023. The car will be upgraded for 2024, with more details to follow in due course.
Longtime Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Henk Lategan will be missing Dakar 2024 due to a shoulder injury sustained during the penultimate round of the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) on October 7, where he was fighting for the championship. The 29-year-old has undergone surgery and won't be fully healed in time for the Dakar Rally, which takes place early in January 2024.
The most experienced member of the new-look team remains Giniel de Villiers, who will again be partnered with navigator Denis Murphy. The 51-year-old South African driver has one of the best records in Dakar history, with 20 starts to his name. Having only finished outside the Top 10 once (2007), he has been in the top five 15 times and taken overall honours once. He has won 18 stages over his Dakar career and the team will rely heavily on De Villiers' experience again this year.
For Dakar 2024, De Villiers will also have Guy Botterill as teammate. Botterill, who hails from Durban, is a race winner in the SARRC and a full-time member of Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa, which contests the local championship. The 37-year-old has spent most of his racing career in rallying, where he won several South African national titles before moving across to rally-raid racing.
Dakar 2024 will be his first attempt at the event, but with Lategan sidelined, Botterill will have the experienced Brett Cummings doing duty as co-driver.
The youngest member of the South African trio in TGR's Dakar team, Sa’ood Variawa is an 18-year-old racing sensation. He will be racing alongside experienced French co-driver Francois Cazalet. After cutting his teeth in the local Global Touring Car championship and showing promising pace in mid-season testing, Variawa is looking to make the jump to the “sandy stuff”. He is the son of Shameer Variawa, who contested the Dakar Rally with TGR in 2021 and 2022, finishing a credible 20th and 15th respectively.
The 12-stage Dakar Rally will start on January 5 2024 in the northern Saudi city of Alula. From there the route will wind its way through the spectacular sands of Saudi Arabia before doubling back for the finish at the coastal city of Yanbu.
“The Dakar Rally has been close to our hearts ever since Toyota SA Motors launched the project back in 2011. Our first participation, in 2012, was a landmark for the company, as we took on the world. We finished third in that first outing, and improved to second the following year,” said Toyota SA vice-president of marketing Glenn Crompton.
“Since then, the Dakar Rally project has been on an incredible journey where we have continually improved the Hilux, building an ever-better car that triumphed in the world's toughest race — first in 2019 and then again in 2022 and 2023.
“We are extremely proud to be part of this journey, and we are excited about showcasing our latest GR DKR Hilux T1+ in the hands of both experienced and young talent.”
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