Comments from the Volkswagen drivers before the “Dakar” start

All preparations completed motivation high: Volkswagen starts the 2011 Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile on New Year’s Day with four Race Touareg. The entire team’s clear goal: To follow the victories from 2009 and 2010 with another. At technical scrutineering the previous day the four new Race Touareg 3 received official start permission from the organiser A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation). The “Dakar” begins on 1 January with the ceremonial start and the opening liaison stage from Buenos Aires to Victoria. With which expectations, goals and strategies the Volkswagen teams approach the desert classic? The comments before the start.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
We approach the Dakar Rally with the very clear goal of taking the third consecutive Volkswagen victory. However, the ‘Dakar’ is exactly a motorsport legend because it’s the greatest challenge in motorsport and always holds surprises in store. You can’t force luck here and must always plan for the unexpected. It’s very clear you must first beat the rally itself to be able to win. On top of this come extremely strong opponents such as X-raid-BMW and well prepared privateers like Robby Gordon in the Hummer or the privately entered Nissan. Everybody in the Volkswagen team is highly motivated to give everything for the hat-trick. I’m confident that we can achieve our main goal thanks to a fantastic team and excellent drivers and co-drivers.”
#300 – Carlos Sainz (E)
To start the Dakar Rally as defending champion changes one thing above all else: You can go a little more relaxed to the start, since we achieved the big goal of winning the ‘Dakar’ once already last year. Our approach is, however, identical to 2010: I will follow the same strategy and maintain the respect like then for this extremely challenging rally. I will drive the pace that suits me. It remains to be seen whether it’s sufficient for another win and if we have the luck required. The competition is very tough again this year.”
#300 – Lucas Cruz (E), co-driver
I feel less pressure this year after we won the ‘Dakar’ in 2010. This year Carlos Sainz and I can concentrate entirely on our own pace and approach every single stage with joy. To win again will be anything but easy because we have strong team mates and strong opponents from other teams. First and foremost, however, you must survive this tough, 15-day long marathon without making mistakes.”
#302 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q)
The team and I have never been so well prepared entering the Dakar Rally. I have a good feeling that Volkswagen will also fight for overall victory again in 2011. My co-driver Timo Gottschalk and I will do everything to contribute to this. Obviously it’s my target to win the ‘Dakar’. As far as tactics are concerned it won’t be easy to attack at the right time to open an advantage.”
#302 – Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver
“Narrowly beaten last year by team mates – this year to win narrowly or even by a slightly larger margin. This is certainly the goal of Nasser Al-Attiyah and I. We came here to win. It won’t be a walk in the park, because in addition to the strong competition from within our own team, we can’t afford to forget X-raid-BMW and many strong privateers. Furthermore the organisers have tightened the rules for navigation. So, this year the co-driver is more important than ever before. It will be a tough ‘Dakar’, but also certainly a very good one.”
#304 – Mark Miller (USA)
After two podium finishes in 2009 and 2010, this is obviously also my personal goal for 2011. Even more so, however, to stand on the top step. The speed was there in the previous years, however, sometimes luck was a little lacking in places and we made the wrong decision with the navigation or when reading the dunes. Rather than lose several minutes due to mistakes my co-driver Ralph Pitchford and I intend to take a few more seconds to make decisions in tricky navigational situations in spite of the intensive competitive atmosphere. This should make all the difference in 2011.”
#304 – Ralph Pitchford (ZA), co-driver
Mark Miller and I have prepared even more thoroughly for the Dakar Rally than in previous years when we clinched a podium position on each occasion. Mark has worked even harder on his fitness, the same goes for me. Also we have thought a great deal about communication in the car. Hopefully this will pay off since navigation this year is even harder thanks to the new rules. The challenge is to keep calm whatever the situation.”
#308 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA)
In 2009 my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and I were able to enjoy the sweet taste of a ‘Dakar’ victory; in contrast the 2010 rally didn’t go so well. You can’t plan such a tough cross country rally and force success. Our goal is to drive at our pace and give everything to win. We know just as well that it’s not over till it’s over. We’ve prepared well and completed between 5,000 and 6,000 test kilometres. The new car is a big step forward. For this reason alone I’m looking forward to the ‘Dakar’ and am sure that we’ll right at the front with the Race Touareg 3.”
#308 – Dirk von Zitzewitz (D), co-driver
Anything can happen during the Dakar Rally. Nevertheless, you tend to shut this out and to approach it with the expectations too high. Giniel de Villiers and I don’t want to make this mistake. We’ll attack the 2011 ‘Dakar’ from day to day with renewed vigour, do our best on every stage and wait to see which result comes out at the finish. But if we do it like we know we can then it should be a good result.”