Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers will take the start of the 2022 Dakar Rally after returning a negative COVID-19 test result.
As reported by DirtFish on Sunday, the 2009 event winner’s participation in the rally raid, which is due to start this weekend with a Prologue in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, had been in doubt after initially testing positive last week.
Former World Rally Championship driver Kris Meeke had been linked to replace de Villiers in the team, had the South African’s second test also been positive.
But the team confirmed to DirtFish on Tuesday that de Villiers has been cleared to fly out of South Africa and will join up with his team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah, Henk Lategan, and Shameer Variawa in Saudi Arabia.
There’s no doubt that Toyota is in a far better position with the inclusion of de Villiers among its Dakar operation than without.
He’s conducted most of the development work on the new-for-2022 DKR Hilux T1+, so knows the characteristics of it more than Al-Attiyah and the rest of the team.
Had de Villiers returned another positive test, Toyota could well have gone into the 44th edition of the Dakar on the backfoot slightly. There’s a lot to be said about the influence of experienced campaigners on an event like this, and de Villiers has the most Dakars under his belt among the TGR ranks.
Expect de Villiers to be champing at the bit to get going on Sunday as well. He talked about seeking revenge from last year’s puncture-affected event and he feels confident in the car’s ability to do the business in Saudi Arabia.