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MOTORING: Dakar 2017: Toyota Hilux Evo Tested in Northwest

 



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The brand new Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux Evo enjoyed its first test session recently, when Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz put the revolutionary two-wheel-drive vehicle through its paces at a location in the Northwest Province of South Africa. It was the first real-world test for the Toyota Hilux Evo, and the initial results were highly encouraging.

"It is always exciting to put a completely new concept to the test," says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. "And the Toyota Hilux Evo is just such a concept. Now that we've had a chance to see it in action over terrain that matches certain parts of the Dakar, we are highly encouraged."

The new vehicle is a departure from Toyota Gazoo Racing SA's proven four-wheel-drive vehicles, which have attained spectacular results on the Dakar Rally over the past five years. These vehicles are also dominating the local Donaldson Cross-Country Championship, with Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie leading the championship.

As its name suggests, the Toyota Hilux Evo, represents the next evolution of Dakar racing for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, and will allow the team to compete on a more even footing that ever before.

The first test was aimed at validating the design, more than developing the vehicle further. As such, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz tested the Toyota Hilux Evo over a number of different terrain types, and always came back with positive feedback.

"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!"

The Toyota Hilux Evo has a target weight that is nearly 600 kilograms lighter than the current race vehicle, and even though attaining that target is nearly impossible, the new vehicle will certainly have a significantly better power-to-weight ratio.

"Now that we've proven the concept, we'll go back and refine the vehicle as much as possible," says Hall. "We've got a lot of data on the dampers and settings from the four-wheel-drive, so we're not starting from scratch. With that said, we'll need a lot more testing before we ship the vehicles off to South America in December."

In the meantime, the fabrication crew is constructing two more Toyota Hilux Evos at the team's HQ in Barbeque Downs, near the Kyalami Racetrack in Gauteng, South Africa. These vehicles will be allocated to Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie; as well as the team's latest signings, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel.

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