TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa will be fielding three crews at the 2024 Dakar Rally, with all three drivers hailing from South Africa. All the crews will be powered by the same Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+, which attained the top step of the Dakar podium in both 2022 and 2023. The car will be significantly updated for 2024, but more details on these updates will follow in due course.
Unfortunately, Henk Lategan will be missing Dakar 2024 due to a shoulder injury that he sustained during the penultimate round of the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC), where he was fighting for the championship. Lategan has undergone surgery on his shoulder and won’t be fully healed in time for the upcoming 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 Denis Murphy. The South African driver has one of the best records in the history of the Dakar Rally, with 20 starts to his name. Having only finished outside the Top 10 once (2007); he has been in the Top 5 fifteen times and taken overall honours once. He has won 18 stages over his Dakar Rally career, and there can be no doubt that 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 the city of Durban, is a race winner in the South African Rally-Raid Championship, and a full-time member of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa, who contests the local championship. He spent most of his racing career in the exciting world of 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 Henk Lategan side lined, Botterill will have the experienced Brett Cummings doing duty as co-driver.
The final member of the South African trio in TGR’s Dakar team is also its youngest. Sa’ood Variawa is an 18-year-old racing sensation, who will be racing alongside the 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.
With a fresh new look to its driver line-up, TGR is looking to its future, which includes the continued development of its Dakar-winning GR DKR Hilux T1+. Details of the car’s updated specifications for the 2024 season will be shared in due course. However, the latest evolution of the car will conform to the new rules as set out by the FIA. Additionally, Toyota’s aim of building ever-better cars through motorsport has spurred on further refinements to various components of the car. At the same time, the team is looking to a sustainable future, details of which have not been announced yet.
The 12-stage marathon event will start on January 5th, 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,” says Glenn Crompton, Vice-President: Marketing, Toyota SA Motors. “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. 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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