A race as grueling as the Dakar Rally demands a vehicle that can traverse the tough, near-hostile terrain. Well, Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa (SA) has just the vehicle for the job, the Hilux Evo, which will participate in the 2017 Dakar Rally.

Obviously, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Hilux with a few performance bits stuck to it. For starters, it uses a 5.0 litre Lexus-sourced V8 petrol engine, with a wider 38 mm air restrictor as part of new regulations for 2017 for increased performance. The enigne drives the rear wheels, which may seem like an odd choice at first.

However, the decision to go with rear-wheel drive is due to the benefits gained, such as greater freedom within the FIA regulations. This includes the ability to mount the powertrain closer to the bottom of the vehicle between the axles for better weight distribution and a lower centre of gravity.

On the mention of weight, the Hilux Evo weighs just 1,300 kg, 615 kg less than the previous all-wheel drive Dakar racer, and 800 kg less than the top-spec Hilux you can buy in Malaysia. The rules set for rear-wheel drive vehicles also allow for larger wheels (940 mm rather than 805 mm on 4×4 vehicles), more suspension travel and an onboard tyre inflation and deflation system (not allowed on 4×4 vehicles).

For the 2017 edition of the Dakar Rally, three Hilux Evo race models will be vying for the top prize, with a driver and navigator assigned to each. The first pairing will be driver Giniel de Villiers with navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz.

Leeroy Poulter, with Rob Howie acting as his co-driver, will pilot a second truck. The team will also welcome former Dakar winner and newly crowned FIA Cross Country World Cup Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and his navigator Matthieu Baumel to occupy the third truck.