Having spent two weeks cramped in a vehicle, travelling across terrain that transformed from mountains to desert, through weather that fluctuated from blazing heat to snow, South Africa's Dakar Rally drivers were in good spirits when they returned home on Tuesday.
Giniel de Villiers, the 2009 champion, finished third in the gruelling race at the weekend, with the all-SA pairing of Duncan Vos and Robert Howie taking 11th place in the cars category. The Imperial Toyota teammates were delighted with their performance.
"When Glyn [Hall, team manager] approached me at the beginning and asked me what I thought we could achieve, I just told him to make sure all the nuts and bolts were in place," De Villiers said.
"If he and the technical team could do that, I thought we could finish in the top five, or even the top three, and we did that."
The team arrived to a rousing reception from a few hundred people at OR Tambo International, with most waving flags. Two large banners greeted them at the arrivals terminal, one reading "Congratulations" and the other "Welcome Home Boys".
At a packed media conference shortly after their arrival, attended by their families and friends, the team sat behind De Villiers' bronze trophy and Vos shared his initial concerns about the 8400km trek from Mar del Plata, Argentina, to Lima, Peru.
"After the first day Glyn said to me, 'listen, I can walk faster than you drive'," said Vos, who shared a vehicle with co-pilot Howie.
"That was a big wake-up call. The race was a huge learning curve for us and we're in a great position to take advantage of that in future."
Glyn said Vos had needed only a few days to develop the necessary confidence, making brief forays into the top 10 in the latter stages of the race.
"I put so much pressure on Duncan," Hall said.
"He needed new tyres, but I told him he couldn't have them until he was in the top 10. Once he had achieved that," Hall added, beaming as he turned to Vos, "I was nice to you then."
Having prepared in advance by racing according to technical rules that will come into effect only next year, De Villiers, who was accompanied by German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, believed they could go even better in 2013.
"If we have the same commitment and performance from the team, and the technical team, I don't see why we can't challenge for the win next year."