When the World Rally-Raid Championship resumes with the Rallye du Maroc on 1–10 October, Isidre Esteve will race in the highest level of the T1 class for the first time. On Thursday, Repsol Rally Team announced Esteve will drive a Toyota Hilux T1+, which enjoyed tremendous success at the 2022 Dakar Rally with Nasser Al-Attiyah.
“We are joining the T1+ category, the most competitive of the Dakar, with one of the fifth cars of the highest level that the event will have,” said Esteve.
“The cars in this division represent an important leap forward at a technical level. If we wanted to continue growing and being competitive, we had to get one of these units, and we have achieved it. The first test kilometres with the Toyota Hilux T1+ confirm that the leap forward is impressive. Now we can run much more taking half the risks than last year.”
Esteve and co-driver Txema Villalobos are no strangers to the Hilux, though they ran the Toyota Hilux Overdrive model prepared by Overdrive Racing for the T1.1 level. While the Overdrive has also been a viable vehicle, the T1+ presents upgrades such as larger wheels (43.18 cm instead of 15.24 cm) and more suspension travel (350 mm versus 275). Other differences include a more centralised engine and a wider base at 24 cm.
With the Hilux Overdrive, Esteve finished twenty-seventh overall at the 2022 Dakar Rally. Esteve has competed at Dakar since 2001, though originally on a bike before switching to four wheels in 2009. He and Villalobos first joined forces for the 2017 race, which marked Esteve’s first start since 2009, while 2021 saw his maiden race in the Hilux.
Three Hiluxes finished in the top five for the Cars category at the 2022 Rally with Al-Attiyah of Toyota Gazoo Racing and Overdrive’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi respectively in first and third. Giniel de Villiers, racing for TGR South Africa, was fifth. TGR Spain provides support for Repsol Rally Team.
Al-Attiyah’s T1+ was later showcased at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June as the only vehicle to participate in the event’s Forest Stage, Hillclimb, and Off-Road Arena.