Even if Volkswagen left the Dakar rally after enjoying a successful run in 2010 and 2011, last year's champion Nasser Al-Attiyah will still have to defend his title in one of Robby Gordon's specially built Hummer H3's. Al-Attiyah will run the Qatar-sponsored H3, while Gordon himself will drive the bright orange Speed Energy racer. This will be the Qatari's first time to drive a two-wheel-drive vehicle in the desert.
But unlike the purpose-built MINI's and H3's, Toyota is fielding two production-based South African-built V8-engined Hilux pickups, fitted only with race modifications and a bigger engine for the Dakar. Still, the team is ready to slug it out with the big boys with 2009 winner Giniel de Villers and four-time South African off-road champion Duncan Vos at the helm of the Hilux's.
In other news, this year's surprise hails from countries that are for foreign to the dunes of the Dakar. Swedish team Pewano takes on the challenge with a lone Volvo XC60 RR driven by South African Alfie Cox - an 11-time Dakar veteran, while Chinese manufacturer Great Wall embarks on its third Dakar assault with two Haval SUV's driven by Carlos Sousa and Zhou Yong. Both machines are, however, rumored to simply be cloaked X-raid BMW X3CC's. And sadly, just after the first day of the Dakar, Pewano's XC60 RR was engulfed in fire and retired from the race.
Dakar 2012 Teaser
Monster Energy X-raid Team Preview
Toyota Dakar Rally 2012