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Donaldson a partner in Toyota’s Dakar success

The Dakar Toyota Hilux team relied on Donaldson to supply filters with the capacity to filter out any contaminants along the way

The Dakar Toyota Hilux team relied on Donaldson to supply filters with the capacity to filter out any contaminants along the way. The annual Dakar Rally is arguably the world’s toughest vehicle race with more than 9 000km to traverse across two South-American countries. The 2016 Dakar Rally saw competitors from across the globe taking part on motorcycles and quad bikes, and in trucks and purpose-built race cars.

The 2016 Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team consisted of three Toyota Hilux race vehicles, campaigned by former Dakar winner, Giniel de Villiers, current SA National Cross-Country champion, Leeroy Poulter, and Saudi racing sensation, Yazeed Al-Rajhi. They were partenered by Dirk von Zitzewitz, Rob Howie and Timo Gottschalk respectively.

This isn’t a race that is won or lost by a single person or even a single crew,” said Toyota Imperial Team Principal Glyn Hall after returning from the Dakar Rally in South America in February. “It takes a dedicated team to run the vehicles, a talented driver and navigator to keep it all on track, and a massive network of technical partners and suppliers back home that all play a part in creating the best possible race vehicle in the first place.”

Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie at speed during this year’s Dakar Rally.
Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie at speed during this year’s Dakar Rally.

This year an intrepid South African team counted amongst the competitors for the fifth time, and despite facing off against some of the giants in the automotive world, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, as the team is now known, came back carrying a trophy. During the team’s first foray on the Dakar, back in 2012, Giniel de Villiers and German navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz, achieved an amazing third place overall. In 2013 they did one better by claiming second position overall, before attaining fourth place in 2014.

They followed this up with another second place in 2015, and added to the tally with another third place this year. “This year we had a fantastic race,” said de Villiers after finishing his 13th Dakar. “We just couldn’t catch Nasser (Al-Attiyah in a MINI), but the 2015 Toyota Hilux is by far the best of the Hilux attempts so far.

As much as a cup full of dust can come out of a Donaldson air filter at the end of a stage on the Dakar.
As much as a cup full of dust can come out of an air filter at the end of a stage on the Dakar.

We were right there in the thick of it, and on the Dakar, that’s saying a lot.” According to Hall, effective filtration plays a key roll in the design of any race vehicle:

“Essentially we want maximum airflow through the smallest, most effec- tive air filter possible. And this goes for our Dakar vehicles, rally cars and cross country bakkies too.”

As such, the filter housing must be compact and simple, yet totally reliable in terms of keeping dust out. And as with anything in motorsport, it needs to be easy to access, so that filters can be changed very quickly if needed.

Owing to the varied terrain encountered on the Dakar, the filters must also be able to cope with small amounts of water, without damaging the integrity of the filter itself.

And the housings have to make provision to drain or dissipate the water quickly, so that the filter itself can return to maximum efficiency in the shortest possible time.

As a matter of fact, Dakar 2016 was one of the wettest events on record, with floods causing the cancellation of more than one section of the race. During the first week, in the lowlands of Argentina, the race vehicles were forced to race in extremely wet conditions.

To make matters even more challenging, the filters used on the Dakar in 2016 also had to cope with extended periods of exposure to extreme amounts of dust, without compromising on either filtration or airflow.

As much as a cup full of dust can come out of an air filter at the end of a stage on the Dakar, yet the Donaldson filters used this year showed no measurable degradation in terms of pressure throughput.

“We measure the air pressure on each stage of the race,” explained Hall.

Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz celebrate.
Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz celebrate.

“This year we couldn’t detect any pressure drops during the race, despite some of the most varied conditions we have yet encountered.”

For the 2015 Dakar, Toyota elected to move to the new Powercore range of Donaldson filtration products, and used them again in 2016.

The original decision was mainly due to space limitations, which did not allow the use of a more traditional cyclonic filtration system. As a result the team relied completely on the new filter alone, and achieved better- than-expected results.

Toyota Motorsport also uses Donaldson fuel filters in their local race vehicles, and where direct fuel injection is used, clean fuel is of the utmost importance. Owing to the nature of off-road racing and rallying, the service areas are often dusty places where swopping out fuel filters pose a risk.

Finally the team also uses hydraulic filters supplied by Donaldson, both for the steering system, and for the hydraulic jacks that can lift the vehicle for quick tyre changes.

For Toyota SA Motors it is a point of pride that a South African team took on the giants of the Dakar and came away with a podium finish. It is a great result, not only for the company and its Dakar sponsors, but also for the country as a whole.

For Donaldson the chance to partner with the successful team was an opportunity not only to showcase its technical abilities, but also to prove how effective its products are by deploying them on the toughest motor race in the world.

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Tristan Wiggill
Seasoned writer, journalist, photographer, and editor.
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