|SA-Dakar 2012: Toyota Dakar team completes test - Interview with Glyn Hall.|
The Toyota SA team for the 2012 Dakar Rally in South America in January is back in Johannesburg after three and a half days of sand testing in Namibia. Former South African off-road champion and 2009 Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and four-times SA champion Duncan Vos between them completed more than 1500km in the two racing Hilux double-cabs that will compete in the premier T1 class of the world's longest and toughest motor race.
Team manager Glyn Hall said: "It's been a long and tiring exercise, more than 2400km by road from our home base, in a remote part of Namibia, with the team working from before dawn until after sunset every day."
On Day 2 (Friday) the crew built eight full sets of shock absorbers - 64 dampers in all - while the experts pored over the telemetry to produce an optimum suspension setup and a baseline for fine tuning. On Saturday Giniel de Villiers completed a 70 km dune crossing through soft sand in the heat of the day, but both cars got sand inside their bell housing and onto the clutch. The crew replaced both clutches in service-park conditions - which was a useful exercise under the circumstances.
The suspension settings were finalised on Sunday morning once both De Vos and De Villiers were happy with the Hilux's handling. Engine mapping and transmission settings were also put to bed after one Hilux completed a three-minute, continuous soft sand dune ascent without overheating. Areas that still needed attention, however, included more work on the side shafts and finding a way to prevent sand from getting into the bell housing.
But Hall said: "We've learned a lot and successfully completed a major part of our preparation for the big race in January. If we hadn't gone to Namibia, despite all the testing we've done during the SA Off-Road championship season, we wouldn't be in the strong position we are now. Essentially, we achieved two things: we improved the performance of the racing Hilux and we identified areas we have to work on if we want to achieve the kind of reliability that is required to complete nearly 9000km in Argentina, Chile and Peru, about 5000km of which will be under racing conditions."
"We had sand, dunes, camel grass and rough gravel roads - all in the same area - which gave us very similar conditions to what we can expect in the Dakar Rally. Our secret weapon is Giniel de Villiers. He's regarded as one of the best Dakar drivers and the experience he has been able to share with us and the knowledge gained over the past nine Dakars has been priceless. Duncan Vos, who will be competing in his first Dakar, has been able to cram a lot of learning into a very short space of time."
De Vos agreed: "Driving in the sand and the dunes is not as simple as you might imagine. My lack of experience created a few problems, but I learnt a lot from Giniel."
2011/11/08 | 17:12 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/TOYOTA