TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR) will be competing in 2024 with the updated version of its Dakar-winning car, now known as the GR IMT Hilux EVO T1U – a name that reflects both the upgrades to the car and the new W2RC categorisation.
The team will enter five crews at Dakar 2024, including two rookie drivers taking on the world’s toughest automotive race. This will be the largest team that TGR has ever fielded at the iconic Dakar Rally, mixing unparalleled experience in the form of Giniel de Villiers with the undeniable pace of Lucas Moraes and Seth Quintero.
Finally, the team has also confirmed that both Lucas and Seth, together with their co-drivers, will be competing in the full 2024 season of FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).
Both these youthful crews will be looking to draw on the Dakar experience offered to the team by Giniel de Villiers, who won the Rally in 2009. Giniel has an unparalleled record in the event, having completed 20 Dakars to date. He has finished in the Top 10 19 times, achieved eight podium finishes and 15 Top 5 finishes. He will again be partnered with Dennis Murphy, as he has been since Dakar 2022. The pair also won the SARRC title together in 2022.
They will be joined by young racing sensation, Saood Variawa and his co-driver, Francois Cazalet. Saood competes for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA in the Global Touring Car Championship in South Africa; and also drove a Toyota Hilux T1+ as part of the South African SARRC squad. Despite his youth (Saood is only 18 years old, and amongst the youngest works drivers ever to race at the Dakar Rally), the Johannesburg-based racer has a depth of experience, and will be looking forward to tackling the Dakar Rally for the first time in 2024. His father, Shameer, completed two Dakar Rallies as part of the same team, and Saood will be keen to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The final South African crew in the line-up is Guy Botterill and co-driver Brett Cummings. Cummings is a familiar face in the team, as he usually co-drives for Henk Lategan, who cannot compete due to a shoulder injury following a heavy crash in the SARRC earlier in the year. Guy will be facing his first Dakar Rally, and will be hoping that Brett’s experience on the event will stand him in good stead. Guy has an impressive record in South African rallies, and moved across to the rally-raid discipline full-time during 2023. He finished as runner-up in the SARRC this year, narrowly missing out on a title.
While the three South African drivers will be taking on the highly competitive and exciting South African Rally-Raid Series (SARRC), which also serves as the main testing programme for the development of the GR IMT Hilux EVO T1U, the remaining crews will be fighting for victory in the full W2RC after the Dakar Rally.
Lucas Moraes, now partnered with Armand Monleon, was the revelation of Dakar 2023, running in second place for most of the rally in a privately entered Toyota Hilux, but eventually settling for third overall – making him one of the most successful rookies in the history of the Dakar Rally. They will have Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz for company throughout the year. Seth has been described as a rally-raid prodigy, and one of the biggest talents in the current pool of emerging drivers.
New GR IMT Hilux EVO T1U
The new car is 100 mm wider than its predecessor and incorporates several refinements. The suspension has seen specific attention, and the air conditioning unit has been relocated for more efficiency. In addition, the car has been fitted with a new cooling package, allowing for greater redundancy. Toyota’s focus on quality, durability and reliability was a key factor in the development of the new car.
As such, the car has been in constant development throughout the year and TGR’s crews have completed nearly 30,000km of racing and testing in 2023 season of W2RC and SARRC.
Additional tests were conducted in the Kalahari Desert, and considerable test mileage was added in the Namib Desert as part of the final preparations for the Dakar Rally, leading into next year’s W2RC.
At the same time, the team has also been integrating its plans for a more sustainable future, with an eye on the Dakar Future project. As part of its commitment to this project, the TGR Dakar Team has partnered with Repsol, to attain the required targets well ahead of the 2026 deadline.
Dakar 2024 is set to start on January 5th, with a short prologue near the northern city of Alula. Six tough stages will follow the prologue, including an innovative ’48-hour Chrono’ stage, which is essentially an extended marathon stage. This will be followed by the traditional rest day, which again takes place in the Saudi capital of Riyadh (January 13th, 2024). Six more stages will take the rally back towards the northern part of the country, before the event comes to an end in the coastal city of Yanbu, on January 19th.