Toyota Gazoo Racing has announced it will enter four new Hilux cars for January’s Dakar Rally, with three-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah again leading the effort.
Al-Attiyah, who won in 2011 with Volkswagen, 2015 with Mini and 2019 with Toyota, will again team up with co-driver Mathieu Baumel, while South African veteran Giniel de Villiers continues his association with Alex Haro.
They will be joined by South Africans Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings, while compatriots Shameer Variawa and Dennis Murphy complete the line-up.
Lategan will take on the Dakar for the first time in January after winning two South Africa Cross Country Series (SACCS) titles for TGR SA alongside former Dakar motorcyclist Cummings.
The team will run a heavily developed latest version of the Hilux – which first made an appearance on the Dakar in 2018.
It is built and developed out of the team’s Johannesburg headquarters in South Africa and for 2021 will feature modified suspension and a revamped exterior design to reflect the latest production Hilux model.
Glyn Hall, the team principal of TGR’s Dakar program said: “We are very excited about the 2021 edition of the Dakar Rally, especially given the circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reigned in a lot of motorsport during the course of this year.
“As things stand, the race is set to go ahead early in the new year, and we are overjoyed to be entering four proudly South African-built and developed Toyota Hilux in the race.”
Al-Attiyah, who finished second to Mini’s Carlos Sainz in this year’s Dakar, is also optimistic and is targeting to go one better in January.
“I am so happy to be back at the Dakar, driving the Toyota Hilux again. We won with that car in 2019 and finished second in 2020. Now it is time to go back to Saudi and challenge for victory again.”
The 2021 Dakar will again take place solely in Saudi Arabia, having made its debut in the country last year following a decade racing in South America.
Several changes have been made to the organization of the event, with a new digital roadbook being made available just 15 minutes before the start of each stage, something which was trialed during the 2020 event.
For double SACCS champion Lategan, tackling the Dakar is a dream come true.
“Even after winning two championships in South Africa, taking on the world’s toughest race is a daunting prospect,” Lategan said.
“I’m just glad I have Brett with me, who has competed twice at the Dakar already. Having competed in local cross-country rallies in South Africa, I’m very familiar with the Hilux, which helps a lot, too.”
The 2021 edition will run on January 3-15, with the traditional rest day planned at the end of the first week of action on January 9.