The new-for-2022 Dakar Rally technical regulations brought in by event organizer the ASO have the ability to “transform cross-country rallying”, according to Toyota team boss Glyn Hall.
Significant rule tweaks were implemented during the summer to bridge the gap between the buggy prototype cars and 4x4s, notably in an attempt to alleviate puncture issues affecting the latter.
Toyota has suffered the most with punctures in recent editions, with over 100 reported on this January’s Dakar. Runner-up Nasser Al-Attiyah lost over six minutes to overall winner Stéphane Peterhansel through those problems alone.
The changes to the technical regulations mean that 4x4s will be able to run the same size of tire – 37 inches, up from 33 – as the buggies, while also benefiting from increased suspension travel for the punishing Saudi Arabian route.
All four of Toyota’s crews sampled the new tire dimensions during a two-week test in Namibia last month, with team principal Hall noting a marked change in the GR Hilux DKR T1+.
“We were concerned about the tall tire and its flexibility, and, without question, the car doesn’t turn quite as well, it doesn’t feel as racy as the old car,” Hall told DirtFish.
“The aspect ratio of the tire is almost double what it was before. So, it’s a bit lazier on the turn, which we expected, and that takes some performance away, but what we didn’t realize was just how much easier the car feels to drive.
“For the cross-country future, I think we’ve hit on a bit of a winner here. For [tire supplier] BF Goodrich, it’s probably bad for their business because we’ve over a 1000 kilometers on those tires and honestly, I want to go to the next race and use the same tires.”
While the new regulations will move Toyota closer to the specifications run by X-raid’s Mini JCW buggy as well as Audi’s new electric RS Q e-tron, Hall said the changes should also allow privateers – such as Erik van Loon, who contested the Rally du Maroc in a new GR Hilux DKR – to continue to compete on the Dakar, while also providing a path for bigger manufacturers to tackle the Cross-Country World Championship.
“For [smaller] teams, the grudge for them is buying the consumer durables, like tires, brake pads, brakes,” Hall added.
“They’ll sell the kitchen sink for a newer engine, but if you ask them to spend €2000 [$2337] a race on new tires, it’s like the end of the world for them.
“These new regulations will transform cross-country racing for the next three or four years. The interest we have had, everyone who has bought one of our cars – and we’re on number 78 now – the phone is going crazy with people who want to upgrade [their existing Hilux], which is actually quite an easy thing to do.”
Hall added that the 2022 regulation change had been in the pipeline since 2018, when he and a handful of other teams began drafting a concept for what ultimately came to fruition this year.
He said it was the sort of rule change that could entice more manufacturers to get involved with the Dakar Rally.
“I wrote these regulations back in 2018, with a really small group and it got poo-pooed by the FIA; a little bit was, ‘we don’t have the tire’, it was written around a 35-inch tire at the time, and nobody really wanted to change,” Hall explained.
“We needed to change. And Peugeot backed it a lot and said that if they came back, they would want to come back as a four-wheel-drive car with big wheels and something more aggressive-looking.
“They had a lot of positive feedback for their car, even though it didn’t look like a Peugeot, it looked aggressive in a sort of a monster truck way. I think the world is ready for these cars, honestly.”