The 2016 edition of the world’s toughest motorsport event, The Dakar Rally, is over. In South America, the millions of fans who cheered on the Dakar convoy as it snaked its way across Argentina and Bolivia, have returned to their normal lives. And back in Johannesburg, South Africa, the members of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team have finally come home.
This year’s race was an emotional rollercoaster. As if the racing itself wasn’t tough enough, Mother Nature conspired to add floods, dust storms and scorching heat along the way. Even out on the stages, where things really mattered, the race got off to a rocky start.
“We knew all along that the Peugeots would be quick,” explains Team Principal Glyn Hall. “But we didn’t expect them to be that quick! And in the early part of the race, where multiple WRC champion Sebastien Loeb was at home, we had every reason to worry.”
But the Dakar is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint, and consistency is often more important than raw speed. Not that things got any easier once the race started climbing towards the high plains of Bolivia.
“The turbo-charged cars have always proven fast in the thin air of the high altitude stages. And this year we saw more high altitude stages than ever before,” continues Hall. “As a matter of fact, the rules state that the restrictor sizes need to change if the average altitude is above 2,000 m – and while the average was planned to be lower than that this year, the cancellation of Stage 1, which was due to take place near sea level, pushed the average over the threshold.”