2022 is going to be a thrilling year as the Dakar returns to the diverse landscapes and dunes of Saudi Arabia, and South African rally driver Giniel De Villiers is gearing up for all the action.
De Villiers, who hails from Barrydale is no stranger to the world of off-road racing, having secured seven podium places in his career so far, including winning the 2009 Dakar in Argentina. He shared his thoughts on the rally ahead by saying, “We always look forward to the new routes… and we’re expecting a lot more sand. It’s a great country to have the Dakar in, we have always enjoyed racing there.”
In addition to exploring new parts of the Saudi desert, the 44th edition of the Dakar has provided new opportunities for teams to approach the challenge with much-needed updates to a few key regulations.
“I feel very excited for this edition. There have been some rule changes ahead of the rally this year. Last year I had twenty-four punctures and this year we are allowed the same size tyres as what the buggies had last year and the years before, which they always beat us with,” explained De Villiers.
“We’ve gone from 32-inch to 37-inch tyres, which are a lot bigger so we’re expecting significantly less punctures. We also have more suspension travel this time around and a brand-new turbo-charged engine from Toyota,” he adds.
The reputation and popularity of the competition has steadily grown over the years, attracting interest from younger generations of rally drivers around the world. In South Africa, De Villiers notes one rising star in particular to look out for.
“I definitely see some local drivers coming through the ranks, for example my teammate Henk Lategan. He’s twenty six and took part in the rally last year and he did very well.
“He’s a very fast guy and definitely someone to watch. He’s four years younger than I was when I did my first Dakar and he’s already on his second race,” De Villiers explains.
The South African rallying scene is enjoyed by many competitors across various championship events, with applications for navigator positions open to competitors as young as the age of 15.
De Villiers goes on to say that “There are many youngsters on the local off-road scene but we can always do more to develop young talent further in South Africa. It’s always difficult to get into the sport because it is so expensive so it’s a question of finding ways to keep giving young drivers opportunities.”
The Dakar is the world’s biggest Rally Raid, and therefore requires competitors to be physically prepared for the events and for teams to regularly revise car designs to get the best performance possible.
Follow all the action on www.redbull.com/dakar.