The Toyota Cooper Tires team’s lead vehicle claimed an admirable 19th position overall in this year’s grueling Dakar race.
As one of the most experienced Dakar racers in the contest, Xavier Foj and co-driver Pablo Jaton steered their Cooper Tires shod Toyota Land Cruiser safely through one of the toughest Dakar’s in recent history.
Huge dunes, stones and exceptionally dusty stages took their toll on the vehicle’s mechanicals, with the suspension, exhaust and brakes suffering damage along the way. Various incidents came close to halting the pair’s progress but with the experienced Foj – competing in his 20th Dakar race – at the helm, together with the navigational and mechanical skills of Jaton, they didn’t let up.
Rather than competing in the T2 class, the production specification Toyota Cooper Tires Land Cruiser was forced to race against highly tuned vehicles piloted by works-backed drivers such as Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah, after minor alterations weren’t verified in time.
“I’ve completed 20 Dakars now and this was spectacular. The racing was tough and the heat was almost unbearable at times, but nothing can match the excitement and adventure of competing in this contest,” said Foj after arriving back in Buenos Aires.
The second pair competing for the Toyota Cooper Tires team, Jesús Calleja and Ignacio Santamaria, were unfortunate to suffer irreparable radiator damage while tackling large dunes on stage seven, and were forced out of the competition.
The Dakar route took the competitors through Argentina and Chile, including stages across the Atacama Desert and the Andes. It started on New Year’s Day and ended on January 16.
Cooper Tire Europe managing director Julian Baldwin said, “This was a massive challenge for the team but everybody has done great and we finished with one vehicle right up there in the rankings.
“Jesús and Ignacio were doing really well but had the misfortune to pick up some serious damage to their Hilux, which ended their race.”
The Toyota Cooper Tires team fitted 255/75R15 and 245/75R15 STTs to the Land Cruiser for the event.