Toyota Hilux Evo Mid-Engine V8 Truck Revealed – 2017 Dakar Rally Preview

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Whatever you call it, a pickup truck, bakkie or ute, is designed to carry big, bulky items. So why would anyone want to install a mid-engine V8 where there should normally be stuff like lumber or perhaps a jet ski? Because this is racing. Not just any racing, but the 2017 Dakar Rally.

TGRDAK1Toyota South Africa and Toyota Gazoo Racing SA have pulled the wraps off a wild new race truck designed for the 2017 Dakar Rally. The new Toyota Hilux Evo is actually two-wheel drive, with increased suspension travel and a larger air restrictor. Toyota Gazoo Racing SA says the changes should help it to compete on a more competitive footing during Dakar 2017.

TGR SA says the new vehicle “conforms to all the rules as set out by the FIA, and used by the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), organizers of the Dakar Rally.” The Hilux Evo is significantly lighter – 1,300 kg as a target, versus the 1,915 kg of the 4×4 version of the Toyota Hilux.

It also features larger wheels and 940 mm (in diameter) tires versus 805 mm for the 4×4, significantly greater suspension travel and an onboard tire inflation/deflation system.

TGRDAK2“Essentially, this is our take on what a two-wheel-drive Dakar challenger should be,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “We’ve taken all the testing and real-world experience we gained with the four-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux over the past five years, and repackaged it in the lighter, faster Toyota Hilux Evo.”

The Toyota Hilux Evo features an innovative layout, with the engine and transmission housed between the two axles. This gives the vehicle an advantage in terms of weight distribution, and with all the heaviest components placed near the bottom of the vehicle, the center of gravity is lower. TGR SA says more freedom in the regulations allowed the engineers to explore new ideas.

“The important thing for us was to retain as much as possible from the previous vehicle in terms of suspension setup and engine tech,” says Hall. “With this in mind we’ve stayed with the same proven, state-of-the-art V8 engine, and used all our knowledge when designing and setting up the suspension.”

TGRDAK3For the 2017 edition of the Dakar, the ASO have announced the average altitude for the race is above 2000 meters. The normally aspirated V8 will have a 38 mm restrictor for the first time, allowing the modern Toyota engine to breathe more efficiently. It will also be the first time that Toyota, MINI and Peugeot will be using the same size restrictor, as previous years saw competitors sport either a 1mm or 2mm advantage.

The new vehicle will undergo rigorous testing and refinement, before being shipped to South America at the end of the year, in time to take on one of the world’s most gruelling motorsports events.

In addition to the new vehicle, TGR SA has announced that former Dakar winner and newly crowned FIA Cross Country World Cup Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and his navigator Matthieu Baumel join the team.

Al-Attiyah will join Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter in the driver lineup for 2017, while De Villiers will again be partnered by long-standing German navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz. Poulter will have Rob Howie beside him in the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, for their fourth Dakar together.

The 2017 Dakar Rally is scheduled to take place between January 2-14, 2017, staring in Asunción, Paraguay, before heading through Bolivia and finishing in Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Prototype racing vehicle features and specifications are preliminary and subject to change without notice by the automaker. Race dates and schedules are also subject to change, so please check your local listings.

News source and photos: Toyota UK, Toyota South Africa and Toyota Gazoo Racing SA

Story © 2016