Monday, 6 February, 2023

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Lowvelder Eben Basson and co-driver Leander Pienaar finish seventh in class and bag rookie prize in Dakar debut

The 2023 Dakar Rally has been described by many experienced competitors as one of toughest in the recent history of the notorious rally, making these rookies’ achievement more special.

The 2023 route saw crews traverse the vast empty spaces of the Saudi Kingdom, including a late visit to the Empty Quarter towards the end of the event. After 14 stages and nearly 8 000km – 5 000km of which against the stopwatch – the #TeamHilux Rally-Raid Crew did themselves, their team, and their country proud by arriving at the finish line in Dammam in the seventh overall position in Class T3.

“We came here with one clear objective, and that was to finish the race,” said an emotional Basson at the finish line. “But before we started, Leander and I decided that we were not here to mess around. We set ourselves a target of a top-10 finish.”

TeamHiluxRallyRaid, Eben Basson, Leander Pienaar, Komatipoort, Lowveld, myLOWVELD, myLOWVELD.net, lowveld motoring, Dakar, Dakar Rally

The pair had no choice but to quickly get to grips with their G Rally Team OT3 car, a car they had never driven before the start of the event. It did not take them long to make it into the top 10.

“Unfortunately, like many of the other teams, we had a few setbacks that robbed us of valuable time and a few positions on the overall leader board. But that is racing.”

Basson and Pienaar got into their stride midway through the event and although they had not really been in big dunes before, they regularly found themselves setting times in the upper echelon of the fiercely competitive class. Also in the fray were their teammates Guillaume de Mevius and Francois Cazalet who were well on course to claim victory for the team, until a small electrical problem dropped them down to third place late in the rally.

With only a few stages to go, Basson and Pienaar’s names settled into a comfortable seventh overall in their Class T3. They were just a little too far behind to fight for sixth, but had a relatively comfortable margin over the chasing pack.

“At that point we knew that we had done all that we could do. For the last few stages it became a matter of survival as our focus was to simply defend our overall position,” said Basson.

READ ALSO: Racer from Komatipoort representing Lowveld at 2023 Dakar Rally

READ ALSO: Lowveld Dakar racer in seventh position in class

Besides fighting against some of the biggest names in the sport of Rally Raid racing, the pair also had to battle the elements and other challenges that the Arabian desert could throw at them.

“We did not expect rain and cold weather in the desert, but that is exactly what we got. We got soaking wet on several occasions and it was freezing for many days. Doing 500km in the freezing cold without a windscreen was quite tough,” said an elated Pienaar at the finish line.

TeamHiluxRallyRaid, Eben Basson, Leander Pienaar, Komatipoort, Lowveld, myLOWVELD, myLOWVELD.net, lowveld motoring, Dakar, Dakar Rally

Not only did the pair end in seventh overall position in their class, they were the only competitors in the class that had not competed in the Dakar before. That earned them the coveted rookie prize on the 2023 Dakar.

“It is still sinking in. It will probably take me another two weeks to realise what we experienced over the past two weeks,” said Pienaar. “I am very satisfied that we had the pace to run with the front runners on our first Dakar,” added Basson. “As a racer at heart, one always wants to win, but realistically, our rookie victory and seventh overall is a great result for us.”

Basson and Pienaar, together with the two other #TeamHilux Rally-Raid crews, their teammates from Malalane Toyota, Johan and Werner Horn, as well as the brothers from Witbank, Fouche and Bertus Blignaut, will compete in the South African Rally-Raid Championship across South Africa. The flag will drop for the first race in March, where the team will be racing in their Toyota Hilux bakkies.

“We would like to invite everyone to join us at the SARRC rallies, the atmosphere is amazing and the racing even better,” Basson concluded.

Follow the exhilarating action of the #TeamHIlux Rally-Raid team on Facebook and Instagram @TeamHiluxRallyRaid.

TeamHiluxRallyRaid, Eben Basson, Leander Pienaar, Komatipoort, Lowveld, myLOWVELD, myLOWVELD.net, lowveld motoring, Dakar, Dakar Rally

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