The 2014 Dakar rally kicked off yesterday in the Argentinian city of Rosario, with 472 motorcycles, quads, cars, and trucks setting off on the motorsport calendar’s toughest two weeks of driving.
With all the action taking place a sea, continent, and five time zones away, it’ll be difficult to just reach for the TV remote and follow the action. Thankfully the Dakar organising committee runs a tight ship. The Dakar website has a comprehensive collection of stats, numbers, and live updates. There are start times for each stage, maps of the stages, and as they kick off there is live (written) commentary for the day’s progress. Competitors cover between 400 and 1 000km a day, some of that in lengthy transit stages, so sitting in front of the TV will be a huge hassle, anyway.
If you simply must have video footage, though, the Dakar YouTube channel will post highlight packages every day for each of the disciplines. It also has some great clips detailing the countries and terrain that’ll be seen throughout the rally.
Why should you care? Because this will be the third year that a South African team takes on the biggest names in motorsport. Backed by Toyota South Africa, the Imperial Toyota team has two Hilux pickup trucks participating in the 2014 Dakar. One of them is piloted by previous Dakar winner and all-round nice guy, Giniel de Villiers, who’s joined by his German co-driver is Dirk von Zitzewitz. This duo has finished 3rd and 2nd in the previous two years, and stand a good chance of another podium this year. The other Toyota is driven by Leeroy Poulter, a multiple champion in production car racing, world karting, and local rallying. Poulter’s co-driver is local boy Rob Howie.
Their purpose-built Hiluxes might wear the badges of Japanese manufacturer Toyota, but the vehicles are built here in South Africa, using mostly locally-manufactured parts and components. We took a closer look at the Dakar Hilux last year, and it’s a pretty impressive machine.
Ford South Africa also has two entries. One of its Ford Ranger pickups is driven by local rally veteran Christiaan Visser, whose co-driver is Japie Badenhorst, while the other is headed up by Argentinian duo Lucio Alvarez and Bernardo Graue. This is the first year for Ford’s new Rangers competing in the Dakar, but the drivers have held their own in the first day’s proceedings – and a real winner only emerges after two weeks of rough-and-tumble racing.