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How these South Africans won the coveted Rookie Award in tough Dakar Rally

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Fans of the Dakar Rally will quickly point out that more than 50% of all vehicles participating in this year's race were built in South Africa.

They will also say that a Qatari national won the race for the second consecutive time racing for the South African arm of Toyota Gazoo Racing.But what real fans of the sport will tell you is that two South Africans won this year's coveted Rookie award.The G Rally Team's Eben Basson and Leander Pienaar had all the intention of competing in their first Dakar, but a shot at the 2022 South African Rally Raid championship saw the duo opt to shift their focus to the 2024 edition of the world's most gruelling race.

But three weeks before the start of the 2023 Dakar, everything changed."After we won the Rally Raid championship and kind of accepted that we won't be going to the Dakar, we started relaxing and making plans for the December holidays," Basson explains to News24 Sport."That was until Glyn Hall from Toyota Gazoo Racing SA contacted us and mentioned this amazing opportunity for us to experience our first Dakar.

It is probably the best learning opportunity to take advantage of, considering our plans for 2024. We had so many reasons not to stay at home!"Little time to prepareThe day before the prologue to the 2023 Dakar started was when Basson and Pienaar first 'met' their racing car, the OT3, that will compete in the Lightweight Prototype class.

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