Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Giniel de Villiers could be forced to miss next month’s Dakar Rally after testing positive for COVID-19.
The experienced South African, who won the rally raid in 2009 with Volkswagen, was a key cog in the development of the new T1+ Hilux due to make its competitive debut in Saudi Arabia next week.
De Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy were confirmed as part of a largely unchanged line-up at Toyota, which also features three-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, Shameer Variawa and Henk Lategan.
A source from Toyota told DirtFish that, despite an initial positive test, de Villiers could still take the start of the Dakar should he return a negative test result.
“Giniel has indeed tested positive last week and wasn’t able to travel with the rest of the team,” the source said.
“However, he will travel as soon as he tests negative, which we expect to be by the middle of the week.”
De Villiers is one of the most experienced car competitors in the field, with 18 starts to his name, recording eight podiums along with his solitary victory.
Should de Villiers return another positive test result, it is believed that former Toyota World Rally Championship driver Kris Meeke could be in the frame to take his place in the team.
“Kris is a friend of the team, and should there be any unexpected results with Giniel, he may be able to step up at short notice. As of now, the plan is for Giniel to drive.”