South Africa’s Toyota Imperial team was met by a sea of fans upon its return from the 2013 Dakar on Tuesday.
Fans were on hand to welcome the team home and celebrate their achieving a second overall finish in the 15-day Dakar Rally that ended in Santiago, Chile, on Sunday.
Driver Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and team manager Glyn Hall along with their full team of engineers and technicians were met by Dr Johan van Zyl, president and CEO of Toyota SA and a number of senior executives before being whisked to a media conference.
Dr van Zyl said: ‘We’re extremely proud of you and your outstanding achievement.
‘You finished third in 2012 and now you’ve finished second this year. Next year I expect you to come first,” he said with a broad smile.
Team manager and boss of Kyalami-based Toyota Motorsport Glyn Hall said it had been a privilege to be able to contest the Dakar for a second year with Toyota.
‘We not only came second overall,’ Hall said, ‘but we also won our class (T1.1 petrol-engined 4×4 vehicles) and achieved the highest position Toyota has ever enjoyed in this race.’
‘The respect for the Dakar around the world is massive and our achievements in this, the world’s longest and toughest motor race, have not gone unnoticed,’ added Hall.
‘Giniel and Dirk’s Hilux completed the 8 500 kilometres from Lima in Peru to Santiago in Chile with just a minor brake problem. Otherwise it was mechanically trouble-free and not one body panel was damaged.’
De Villiers said it had been a tougher race than the 2012 edition, with two crossings of the Andes mountains at high altitude, extreme temperatures and dangerous river crossings.
‘I’m very proud of our achievement,’ said De Villiers, who won the Dakar Rally with Von Zitzewitz in 2009. ‘All the meticulous preparation and hard work by Glyn and his team, including building a brand new Hilux for us for this year’s race, paid off.
‘This result is history now and it’s time to move forward. We must aim to do better next year. We have the team and we have the backing of Toyota and our other sponsors for the next two years. With a little more development of the racing Hilux and a bit of luck – winning the Dakar always requires some good luck - I think we can do it.’