Toyota’s Hilux is the basis of a new racing truck the Japanese auto giant plans to enter in the 2017 Dakar rally.

Called the Hilux Evo, the racing truck is being developed by Toyota of South Africa in partnership with Toyota Gazoo Racing.

It adopts two-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive and in doing so the engineers have been able to bring a number of key benefits, such as greater freedom within the regulations, significantly lighter weight, plus the ability to mount the powertrain between the axles for improved weight distribution.

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Development is ongoing but the engineers expect to get the weight down to about 2,866 pounds, which represents a weight saving of over 1,300 lb compared to the last Hilux-based racing truck entered in the Dakar rally. The new platform also offers a broader range of suspension travel and enables larger wheels to be fitted.

2017 Toyota Hilux Evo Dakar rally truck

2017 Toyota Hilux Evo Dakar rally truck

Power comes from a naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V-8, the same unit used in the previous truck. However, regulations for the 2017 Dakar rally see the engine run a wider 38-millimeter air restrictor.

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Doing the driving for Toyota will be former Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. He will be joined by Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter.

The winner of the 2016 Dakar rally was Peugeot driver Stéphane Peterhansel, although there was some controversy over an extra refueling and appeals made, though these were dismissed in a French court.

The 2017 Dakar rally gets under way in Asunción, Paraguay on January 2 and this time will snake its way through Bolivia and Argentina. The final stop is the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.