Hallspeed navigates toward a new future

It is pedal to the metal at Hallspeed, located close South Africa’s famous Kyalami race track (Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit) in Midrand, as new owner Shameer Variawa gets behind the wheel of his new venture of steering the company who helps build the vehicles he so loves to race.

At the tender age of 16, Shameer Variawa embarked on a thrilling journey into the world of off-road racing, serving as navigator for his late father in a series of exhilarating events. With a proud family tradition spanning three generations, Variawa’s passion for the sport would take him to unprecedented heights, culminating in his crowning as the South African National Off-Road Champion in the year 2000.

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s winning car in the Dakar Rally 2023

However, his most remarkable achievements were still to come. Variawa’s name would become synonymous with the gruelling Toyota 1000 Desert Race, a challenging event that put even the most seasoned off-road racers to the test. In a stunning display of skill and determination, Variawa emerged victorious in this intense competition for three consecutive years, claiming top honours in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Today, Variawa’s legacy as a skilled and fearless competitor endures, inspiring a new generation of off-road racers to push themselves to their limits and beyond. His remarkable achievements serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of adventure and competition that lies at the heart of this thrilling sport.

Shameer Variawa has recently become the new owner of Hallspeed

Having himself competed in the Dakar, Variawa’s sons Saood and Sa’aad have become the third generation of the Variawa family to start competing at the highest levels of their respective disciplines in the sport and just recently, Saood, who finished second in the 2022 GTC Championship in his debut season, won Race 1 of the first GTC event of the year in his Gazoo Toyota Corolla at Kyalami, making his intentions for the season obvious. Despite finishing fourth in the second race, having a mentor like his father and a fair amount of international racing experience already under the belt, this is a youngster worth keeping an eye on.

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa
December 1978 marked the birth of an audacious idea by a French adventurer, Thierry Sabine, who sparked a thrilling expedition that continues to push the limits of human endurance to this day. Sabine opened a gateway to the world of adventure with the inception of the Paris-Dakar Rally, a gruelling race that traversed the arid expanse of the Sahara Desert, starting in Paris and culminating in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

Hallspeed’s Machine Shop Manager Theon Rayner and General Manager Evan Hutchison

Since its inception, the rally has been a hallmark of extreme adventure, drawing enthusiasts from around the world to participate in its high-stakes challenges. Due to political instability, the race was temporarily relocated to South America between 2009 and 2019, but the rally’s insatiable thirst for adventure led to yet another chapter in its storied history in 2020, with a move to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Despite its move away from the original Paris-Dakar route, the Dakar name continues to be synonymous with “the world’s most extreme rally,” embodying the spirit of unbridled adventure. The race’s fan base has only grown stronger over time, and its popularity endures to this day, with thousands of spectators and enthusiasts alike eagerly anticipating each new iteration of this epic event.

One of Hallspeed’s new acquisitions to further streamline their processes of production is a DN Solutions (formerly Doosan Machine Tools) Puma DNT 2100MB horizontal turning center

Demanding nothing less than the maximum from its competitors, pitting drivers and their vehicles against a relentless onslaught of heat, terrain, and the elements, over the course of just under two weeks, drivers must cover a staggering 5 000km, pushing themselves and their machines to the very limits of human endurance.

With temperatures soaring to 40 degrees Celsius and driving conditions that are anything but forgiving, the Dakar Rally is a true test of the competitor’s mental and physical strength, as well as their navigational and mechanical prowess. It is no wonder that completing this challenging event is considered a victory in itself, with the rallying cry being that “all drivers who cross the finish line are winners.” Indeed, more than half of the vehicles that begin the race fail to complete it, a testament to the unforgiving nature of this iconic event.

Despite the daunting challenges that lie ahead, drivers from over 50 countries will converge on the starting line, ready to battle against the elements and each other for the ultimate prize. With more than one billion viewers tuning in from 190 countries, the eyes of the world are always on this remarkable display of skill, determination, and adventure. The Dakar Rally is a true celebration of the human spirit and a testament to the enduring appeal of off-road racing.

Another important acquisition has been a Cosen G300 CNC band saw. Hallspeed cut-to-size most of their material that they machine

Toyota’s vehicles embody the spirit of adventure and endurance that defines the Dakar Rally, and through it all, Toyota has remained a constant presence, dominating the competition with its legendary quality, durability, and reliability, competing in every Dakar Rally since inception.

Such vehicles require precision engineering and a team of dedicated specialists to ensure this reputation stands true.

Born in Britain, Glyn Hall came to South Africa in 1980 and was crowned 1990 rally champion before becoming General Manager of Nissan Motorsport in 1993. Hallspeed was formed in 1996 as a subcontractor to Nissan and it is now responsible for Toyota’s racing activities in South Africa. To get a vehicle ready for racing takes many hundreds of hours of labour and many rands.

The first component to be machined on the Puma DNT 2100MB horizontal turning center was an aluminium gear housing

Years of dedication and planning go into the manufacture of the Dakar-specification Toyota Hilux and Edgecam CAM software plays a pivotal role in swiftly producing the high precision parts for these top-performing motorsport cars developed in the high-tech ‘garage’ of Hallspeed. Each car must have between 4 000 and 5 000 components that make up the finished vehicle. Approximately 80% of these components are manufactured in-house.

While Variawa is taking over the helm, Hall will still be involved in developing and designing the race cars, explains Theon Rayner, a qualified fitter and turner, CNC programmer and machinist responsible for production milling and tool making for the mill/turn multi-task machining at Hallspeed. Along with his team, his knowledge of the software plays a vital role in being able to swiftly produce the many high precision components for the top-performing Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s rally entries and other vehicles that Hallspeed builds.

Amongst his new toys and Hallspeed’s new acquisitions to further streamline their processes of production are a DN Solutions (formerly Doosan Machine Tools) Puma DNT 2100MB, a DN Solutions DNM 5700 vertical machining center and a DN Solutions Lynx 2100LSY high-performance compact turning center, all supplied by Puma Machine Tools. Both the Lynx 2100LSY and the DNT 2100MB are equipped with live tooling. All three machines run off Fanuc 0i Plus controllers. Another important acquisition has been a Cosen G300 CNC band saw.

Another new machine delivered to Hallspeed is a DN Solutions DNM 5700 vertical machining center

“The machines have been ordered for our purposes of the in-house machining of the majority of our components as well as the work we carry out for other production teams,” says Rayner.

Materials and components machined consist of roughly 50% aluminium, 40% steels and the remainder being made up of special steels.

Behind the scenes
Evan Hutchison, himself a multiple South African Champion and race veteran, and Hallspeed’s General Manager, reiterates that competing in the Dakar and rally sport in general is not just a driver/navigator test of endurance, but an entire team effort too. The rally itself may be even more gruelling for those that offer their support and expertise to the driving team – a team that easily consists of up to 32 in Hallspeed’s case. Early mornings and late nights with very little sleep denote the experience.

“You shower when you can, likewise, you eat when you can. Some of the best times are around the fire late at night when it’s freezing cold in the middle of the desert and you have a moment of respite from the daily tasks that include but are not limited to setting up the pits for the mechanics, erecting and deconstructing camp – and of course, making sure you have all this done and ready before the vehicle comes in at the end of the stage.”

The new Lynx 2100LSY turning center is equipped with live tooling

“Sometimes, you work through the night just to get the vehicle ready for the start of the next stage. Staying at the same location on a non-rally day is like a day off. But this is all part of the experience and the great sense of camaraderie that exists with such races. It’s a team effort.”

Hallspeed have plans to acquire more machines in the near future and there will also be a move to Toyota in Kelvin, Johannesburg, to better align with Hallspeed’s growth strategies going forward.

Hallspeed is responsible for the design from scratch of Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s vehicles, developing the engine, the manufacturing and the vehicle testing

At the time of publication, Hallspeed had two vehicles competing in the Abu Dhabi Dessert Challenge. Unfortunately Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel had to withdraw at the end of Stage 3. “They had a comfortable lead of 18min 19sec going into Stage 3 of the 5-stage race, and managed to increase their lead marginally by the end of the day. But their performance was moot, as the pair were forced to withdraw from the race following a high-speed crash near the end of the stage, which damaged the roll cage of their mighty GR DKR Hilux T1+ beyond immediate repair.” The pair of Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings came in third on Stage 3 but found themselves 32nd overall due to a boost-related issue during Stage 2.

For further details contact Hallspeed on TEL: 010 006 0356