T1+ is the premier category for T1 cars at the Dakar Rally, and this unsurprisingly makes it a very attractive division for drivers hoping to go for the overall victory. Tomáš Ouředníček is the newest addition to the list drivers making the upgrade to T1+ vehicles as he and his Ultimate Dakar team will race a Toyota Hilux GR T1+ at the 2024 Rally. David Křípal will serve as his co-driver.
To prepare him for the start, he will run select FIA World Wally-Raid Championship and World and European Cups for Cross-Country Bajas races in 2023.
“We worked hard for a long time to get the opportunity to sit in a factory car. It is a great reward for our performance and perseverance,” said Ouředníček. “Our team motto ‘Never give up’, which we still resolutely fulfill, certainly helped us.”
Ouředníček made his Dakar début in 2009 as a co-driver to Miroslav Zapletal, and the duo finished seventh overall to be the highest placing Czechs at Dakar until Martin Prokop claimed the top spot by one position in 2019. He entered the race as a driver for the first time in 2016 and finished forty-sixth, which he improved upon in 2018 and 2019 with runs of thirty-third and seventeenth, respectively.
Although already racing a Hilux T1 in the T1.1 subclass, interest in switching to the T1+ developed in 2022 with the hope of entering the 2023 Rally. However, the approval process for the Hilux T1+, which has factory support from Toyota as it is prepared by Toyota Gazoo Racing, took too long to complete and forced him to delay the plan by a year.
“It was a really complicated process,” Ouředníček told Žďárský deník. “In cooperation with Toyota Czech Republic, we had to submit various requests, presentations, and references to European Toyota. But it didn’t end there, as the final application for approval was sent to Japan. The process was very challenging because the Toyota brand is really incredibly valuable. They scrutinise us as a crew, our results, our attitude and so on. That’s why everything took so long.
“We originally hoped that we would be able to make it to Dakar 2023. In the end, it was not possible to make it in terms of logistics. The final decision came from Japan on 11 November. That was actually a fortnight before departing (for testing). Although we had already made various preparations and everything was aimed at it, in the end we decided together that we would wait for a new type of car and prepare hard for the Dakar next year.”
Besides W2RC and Cross-Country Bajas, Ouředníček also intends to run the Morocco Desert Challenge on 21–30 April, which he won in 2017. Ultimate Dakar will also begin testing in Spain and Africa in the spring.
He primarily competes in rally raids in the Central European Zone, such as the Hungarian and Czech Championships. He won both titles in 2009.
“The fact that we will have the chance to proudly represent the Czech Republic and fight for the best possible results in world competition is a great honor and at the same time a commitment for us,” Ouředníček concluded.
The Hilux is one of two T1+ cars alongside the Prodrive Hunter. Others to switch to the Hilux T1+ ahead of the 2023 Rally and beyond include Benediktas Vanagas and Isidre Esteve, while Nasser Al-Attiyah won the 2022 Dakar Rally in in one.