Accolades and awards for South African competitors and vehicle manufacturers after extremely tough 2024 Dakar Rally

South African competitors and vehicle manufacturers participating in the 2024 Dakar Rally from 5 to 19 January in Saudi Arabia, showed why they can compete with the best in the world as they earned and bagged numerous accolades and awards after two formidable weeks and 4 700 kilometres of timed racing from the ancient city of AlUla to the shores of the Red Sea, conquering the daunting dunes of the Empty Quarter.

The 46th edition of the world’s toughest rally-raid race that spanned almost 8 000 kilometres, was won by the Spaniard duo of Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz in the hybrid Audi with Sainz (61) winning the event for the fourth time, albeit not winning a stage this year. The Ultimate Cars podium was rounded off by Guillaume de Mevius/Xavier Panseri in their SA built Overdrive Toyota Hilux with Sebastian Loeb/Fabian Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) third.

The facts and figures accentuate the success of the SA Rally-Raid Championship with local vehicle manufacturers Toyota, Ford, Century Racing and Red-Lined Motorsport all bringing home extraordinary results. It also underlines the success of the SARRC, setting the foundation for high-level international participation.

The figures say it all. All of the 22 Toyota Hilux vehicles that started the Dakar Rally, were built in South Africa – only two did not finish the event including the South African pairing of Hennie de Klerk and Juan Möhr (TreasuryOne Motorsport) who had to call it a day after Stage Seven – while there were also 12 Century Racing vehicles with seven completing the event; two Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Rangers started and finished and two of the three Red-Lined Motorsport REVO T1+ received the chequered flag at the finish.

All five Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) GR IMT Hilux T1U, including two Rookie drivers, Guy Botterill and Saood Variawa (18), received their finishers medals while three of the teams finished in the top 10. Botterill, who won the Rookie award after completing his maiden Dakar Rally, paired with Brett Cummings finished sixth overall followed by Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy in seventh place after losing time due to punctures and navigational issues. The Brazilian/Spaniard team, Lucas Moraes/Armand Monleon had to settle for ninth place with their result including victory on Stage 3 for Toyota Gazoo Racing. They were, however, third overall until disaster struck on the penultimate stage when they lost time with suspension issues.

De Villiers set a few new Dakar Rally records. The consistent former winner and multiple SA champion now holds the record for starting and finishing the most Dakar Rally races consecutively – 21 – while he has only once not finished in the top 10. It was the ultimate learning curve for the young Saood Variawa, who was the youngest driver in the Ultimate Class. He showed his talent by finishing 16th overall together with French navigator, Francois Cazalet. The fifth TGR team, the American Seth Quintero and navigator Dennis Zenz had to settle for 42nd place due to a time penalty for an engine change.

Two more SA built Toyota Hilux vehicles finished in the top 10 with Chicherit/Winocq fourth and Vanagas/Sikk eighth.

Another SA built vehicle, the 4x2 Century Racing CR6-T in the hands of the French crew, Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier, also finished in the top 10. The team were fifth overall after Stage 9 but dropped to 10th after their vehicle was damaged. They were, however, the winners of the T1.2 class for 4x2 vehicles with four more CR vehicles finishing in the top 10 of the T1.2 Class.

Seven of the 12 Century Racing vehicles that started the Dakar Rally, finished the race with the SA team of Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer finishing 38th – they were second fastest on Stage 10 – after completing an eventful race with the new 4x4 CR7. Faulty vehicle parts resulted in the team missing two stages in the first week while waiting for parts to be flown in from South Africa and the team receiving a time penalty.

The newly crowned SA Rally-Raid Champions, Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer completed their maiden Dakar Rally in the NWM M-Sport T1+ Ranger in 44th place after a steep learning curve that saw them rolling their vehicle in Stage Seven.

The team made a calculated decision, taking advantage of the rules, with Woolridge/Dreyer missing Stage 8 and incurring the penalty, which paid dividends in the closing stages of this epic event. Their team-mates, former winner on two and four wheels, Nani Roma and Alex Haro, finished a hard but enjoyable event and were 44th in the Ultimate Class despite experiencing mechanical difficulties.

Another Midrand vehicle manufacturer, Red-Lined Motorsport, was represented by three REVO T1+ vehicles at the 2024 edition of the Dakar Rally with two teams successfully seeing out the distance. The 19 year-old lady driver, Aliyyah Koloc and her experienced navigator, Sébastien Delaunay finished in an impressive 25th place overall. The Belgian driver, Stefan Carmans and Dutch navigator, Antonius van Tiel, romped home in 34th place in their REVO T1+.

Of the 70 competing vehicles in the Ultimate Class, a total of 39 were built in SA with 31 finishing this gruelling event while nine of the 11 South African competitors in the vehicle category completed the event.

“Once again South African vehicle manufacturers and their technical crews have come up trumps on this gruelling event,” said SARR chief executive officer Archie Rutherford. “It is more proof of the high standards and professionalism that abound in Rally-Raid racing in this country.

“We can be unashamedly proud of the South African connection at Dakar 2024, and these performances will set the tone when the SA Rally-Raid Championship gets underway in April this year.”