Rookies excel for Toyota Gazoo Racing in 2024 Dakar Rally
Spotlight now on South African motorsports
In the recently concluded 2024 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, Toyota Gazoo Racing experienced a rollercoaster of outcomes, with their seasoned drivers facing challenges while the spotlight turned to the exceptional performances of the team’s two rookie drivers – Guy Botterill and Saood Variawa.
This showcase of emerging talents underscores Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s (TGRSA) commitment to the development of motorsport in the region, highlighting a clear progression from the Junior Academy through SupaCup, GTC, and to rally-raid racing, with the Dakar Rally as the pinnacle.
Among the rookies, Guy Botterill, a seasoned competitor in the SA National Rally Championship (NRC), emerged as the standout performer. Despite limited experience in navigating challenging dunes, Botterill, alongside co-driver Brett Cummings, secured a commendable 6th place in the overall standings after successfully navigating 12 demanding stages in Saudi Arabia.
Young talent Saood Variawa, one of the youngest works drivers in the sport’s history, piloted his GR DKR Hilux EVO T1U to a solid 16th place overall, accompanied by co-driver Francois Cazalet.
While adapting to the enormity of the Dakar Rally took a few stages, his undeniable pace became apparent once Variawa found his rhythm. Coming from a background in track racing, including a recent stint vying for the Global Touring Cars (GTC) title in South Africa, Variawa’s transition highlighted his versatility and potential in rally-raid racing.
The rookies received support from Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy. Unfortunately, De Villiers faced early navigational issues and punctures in rocky stages, finishing in 7th place overall. Despite challenges, De Villiers played a crucial role in developing and testing the latest GR DKR Hilux EVO T1U version, sharing his wealth of experience with the team.
The TGR team also included two international crews for Dakar 2024. Lucas Moraes, partnered with Spanish co-driver Armand Monleon, demonstrated exceptional pace and maturity throughout the event, winning Stage 3 before setbacks dropped them to 9th place.
Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz highlighted their reputation from the T3 category but encountered engine damage after a hard impact, resulting in a 42nd overall finish.
Despite the challenges, TGR secured 6th, 7th, and 9th places in the Top 10, with three additional Toyota Hilux crews achieving Top 10 positions. This remarkable representation reaffirms the quality, durability, and reliability of the GR DKR Hilux EVO T1U, with Toyota Hilux making up 60% of the Top 10.
With Dakar behind them, TGRSA now turns its attention to Round 1 of the South African Rally Raid Championship (SARRC), scheduled for April in Malalane, Mpumalanga. The team aims to build on the experience gained at Dakar and continue their pursuit of excellence in the upcoming event.
Featured image: The rookies received support from Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy. Image: TGR