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Finish in Buenos Aires: Team Land Cruiser Wins The Production Category

The competitors reached the finish in Buenos Aires with thousands of people cheering and waving, providing a warm welcome. The podium just in front of the Argentine Automobile Club with Dakar competitors grinning from cheek to cheek. A memorable moment to be grateful for. A 4th consecutive victory in the production category with TLC drivers Christian Lavieille #327 in 1st place and Akira Miura #332 in 2nd place. Although Overdrive Toyota driver Nani Roma did not end up on the podium, the 4th position overall is something to be proud of. This also counts for Giniel de Villiers #302 finishing in 5th place overall and “rookie” Conrad Rautenbach #320 ending up in 9th place.

The mutual feeling be of TLC (Team Land Cruiser TOYOTA AUTO BODY), TGRSA (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa) and Overdrive Toyota is definitely pride. Even with the loss of Nasser Al-Attiyah #301 and all the other setbacks the teams did the best they could. Everybody worked extremely hard to start a new battle every day alongside the best fans in the world who followed the teams along the whole race. This year’s Dakar brought with it many surprises and challenges, the weather was consistently dreadful, the conditions continued to get worse due to a lot of water, mud and slippery tracks. Competitors got lost repeatedly, due to the difficulty of the road book. It was a tough challenge but it would not be the Dakar if it was not difficult.

For TLC driver’s Christian Lavieille #327 and Akira Miura #332 this year’s Dakar will never be forgotten. Standing strong until the last breath, gaining victory in all stages was an incredible achievement. Akira won two stages for the first time in his career: “Which makes me a very happy man. I’m grateful to be on the podium.” The two drivers and their navigators were dominant in their Land Cruisers, but they could not have done it without their team. This is now the team’s fourth consecutive victory in the production class, a true achievement.

“We’ve learned a lot”

TGRSA driver Giniel de Villiers #302 and Overdrive Toyota driver’s Nani Roma #305 and Conrad Rautenbach #320, are going home with mixed feelings. “We are very happy to be in the top ten but we need to develop more, if we want to fight for the win. This means starting as soon as possible.” Dirk von Zitzewitz, navigator of Giniel de Villiers #302, is happy but recognizes that there is room for improvement. “We’ve learned a lot about the 4WD Hilux, about the team and each other. There is room for improvement and with the right support we can make adjustments. This is Toyota’s chance for victory.” This year’s Dakar was especially hard with multiple stage cancellations, delays and a road book that was at times completely wrong. However, even with these complications and added difficulties, the fact that Toyota had three cars within the top ten, with two just shy of the podium, is a great accomplishment. Especially for newcomer Conrad Rautenbach, given a chance by Overdrive Toyota, who had a lot to prove in his first Dakar. Coming within the top ten shows great promise for the future for the young man.

Towards the future

The preparation for next year’s Dakar Rally can now begin, and although some the drivers may be disappointed in their results, they have nothing to be ashamed of.  The Dakar Rally is a notoriously tough rally and this year was one of the hardest, truly echoing the sentiment that, anyone who finishes the Dakar is a victor. With the results of this year’s rally, Toyota can truly once again begin to create “ever-better” cars, especially with the dominant victory of TLC. The ending in Buenos Aires is truly, just the beginning. 

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