Isidre Esteve Pujol has joined the growing list of racers competing in a T1+ vehicle at the 2023 Dakar Rally. After his first starts in the Toyota Hilux T1+ at the Rallye du Maroc and Andalucía Rally in October proved to be successes, he will once again pilot the truck at Dakar.
Prior to the upgrade, Esteve raced a Toyota Hilux Overdrive prepared by Overdrive Racing in the T1.1 subclass. In his first race with the T1+ at Morocco, he finished seventh overall among the Cars and the second best Hilux behind third-placed Nasser Al-Attiyah, who won the 2022 Dakar Rally and World Rally-Raid T1 Championship in the T1+. Esteve backed up this performance in Andalucía by placing tenth.
As the name suggests, the T1+ is significantly better in performance than the Overdrive/T1 versions with a wider base (24 cm wider), more suspension travel (330 mm versus the 275 mm of the T1), and bigger wheels (14 cm longer in diameter and 7 cm in width). Nicknamed “BlackHawk VII”, the T1+ also uses a monoshock system instead of dual shocks like its predecessors.
His Repsol Toyota Rally Team will introduce a new biofuel that is 75 percent renewable. By comparison, the fuel used in Morocco and Spain was 50 percent in reusable material.
“We used it from the first kilometre with the new Hilux and, of course, in both competitions that we dispute And the performance has always been extraordinary,” said Esteve. “As a team, we are proud to be able to contribute in such a direct way in the development of products designed to mitigate climate change. Repsol’s biofuels can play an essential role in the immediate future. It is the path that society is taking and the competition must lead, as always, this change.
“I think we arrived more prepared than ever. The one for 2023 is ‘The Project’, what we had always dreamed of and had been pursuing for years. We started with a level playing field with respect to the rest that we had never enjoyed. For this reason, we face the race with the same desire as always, although with a bit more enthusiasm, if possible, due to the good feelings and the competitiveness that the car has shown us.”
Esteve and co-driver Txema Villalobos finished twenty-seventh at the 2022 Rally in the Hilux Overdrive. He previously raced in the Bike class from 2001 to 2007 before switching to a car in 2009. After a seven-year hiatus, returned to the race with Villalobos in 2017. The 2021 Rally was his first with the Hilux, and he finished twenty-eighth after a late mechanical failure.
“A long and difficult Dakar awaits us, where every day we will have to be competitive, but always thinking about the future,” Esteve continued. “The harder it is, the better for us. It is clear that we must shed thoughts of attacking at the maximum on some days and save the clothes on other ones. It is time to always think that we are facing a long marathon of fourteen stages and we want to reach the final podium in the best position possible. We are very hopeful of achieving a good result.”
The Hilux is one of two T1+ vehicles alongside the Prodrive Hunter. Al-Attiyah and Yazeed Al-Rajhi respectively race the Hilux T1+ for Toyota Gazoo Racing and Overdrive Racing, while Benediktas Vanagas has also switched to it for Dakar 2023.
The 2023 Dakar Rally begins on 31 December 2022.