South Africa is a playground for bakkies – from sporty double cabs to hardworking single cabs, with canopies or without. These beasts are handy tools to have, which is why getting car insurance quotes and insuring your bakkie is crucial (since you won’t be the only one who thinks it’s cool!).
But did you know there’s another place where South African bakkies have been strutting their stuff? The Dakar Rally of all places, believe it or not!
Separating the mice from the men
South America’s Dakar Rally is the world’s most gruelling motorsport event. It respects no brand, driver or budget, and takes place in January each year. Its sheer length and scale is something to behold, linking 8 000 km of the worst possible roads, in the most isolated and inspiring landscapes, during a race that lasts just short of three weeks.
Dakar’s unlikely stars
But, unbeknownst to many spectators and followers of the race, South African-built bakkies have been outperforming the competition for the past few years.
The 2018 podium featured two Johannesburg-built bakkies and among the top 10, no less than five vehicles were engineered and assembled in South Africa. South Africa’s world-class race car manufacturing industry is a supplier of choice for the event, beating rivals from Europe, the US and Australia.
As such, the Dakar is an important business tool for South Africa’s highly specialised motorsport industry. Competing against rivals from the global motorsport hubs in Europe, with budgets dwarfing any rand-denominated R&D project, South African Dakar vehicle manufacturers have thrived in the last few years. Why? Price has nothing to do with it. Turns out these Mzansi motorsport exports are rugged, reliable, and above all: fast.
Toyota dominating the scene
Of all the locally built Dakar racing vehicles, the Toyota Hilux V8 has been the most successful, scoring six podium places since its debut in 2012. Built to impeccable strength and quality standards at the company’s Kyalami headquarters in Gauteng, they are as truly South African as a Hilux could be.
Former Dakar champion, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, has a vast motorsport budget and after attempting to build his own custom Dakar racing vehicles, eventually commissioned the South African Hilux option. He finished second this year.
Although Toyota dominates Dakar like it dominates local sales, there’s great diversity within the South African motorsport manufacturing portfolio. Nissan also boasts a very strong local association with the Dakar, with a fleet of Navaras especially popular amongst Chinese and Russian competitors.
In fact, South Africa’s off-road racing industry can trace its beginnings to Nissan, as Glyn Hall originally achieved acclaim at the Dakar with his Hardbody and Navara project bakkies in the 90s, before finally reaching the podium with Toyota’s Hilux.
Beyond the Gauteng fabricators there are Ford Ranger V8s too, built by Neil Wooldridge motorsport in Pietermaritzburg. One of these KZN-sourced bakkies finished 33th overall this year, from a field of 105 starters.
South Africa’s success in the Dakar is definitely a credit to the quality of local technical training and engineering education.
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