Fitness week in Arosa kicks off “Dakar” preparations for Volkswagen drivers

Wolfsburg (21 September 2009). Fit for the title defence project: The Volkswagen drivers have prepared themselves for the 2010 Dakar Rally with a five-day altitude training programme. In Arosa, Switzerland, the traditional fitness week of the “Dakar” winners kicked off preparations for the desert classic. For the pairings in the Race Touareg cockpits, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), extensive fitness units in the Swiss Alps were on the agenda from 14 to 18 September immediately following the successful test in competitive conditions at the Silk Way Rally.

After Volkswagen clinched the historic “Dakar” victory in January 2009, the first in the automobile classification by a diesel-powered vehicle, the Wolfsburg-based automobile manufacturer aims to successfully defend the title of the cross-country rally marathon from 02 to 17 January 2010 in Argentina and Chile. The route of the second “Dakar” through South America will run from Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires across the huge mountain ranges of the Andes to the extremely arid Atacama desert in the north of Chile. From there, the teams will return to Argentina, crossing the Andes again and stopping in Santiago de Chile, and then – through the legendary pampas – drive back to the finish in Buenos Aires.

“In January we’re expecting a kind of ‘XXL Dakar’ making even tougher demands on the crews and equipment,’” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “Even the inaugural event in Argentina and Chile, which we had decided to contest, was the toughest ‘Dakar’ of all time. Considering the extreme heat to be expected in the so-called southern summer and the literally dizzying heights during the two crossings of the Andes the physical shape of the drivers and co-drivers is one of the crucial factors. In addition to athletic aspects, the fitness week also served to strengthen the strong existing cohesion among the drivers and co-drivers even further.”

Mountain biking, climbing, hiking: Volkswagen team as mountaineers

The four Volkswagen pairings prepared for their individual workout programmes scheduled for the next few months with a diverse fitness programme under the supervision of the Bad Nauheim Sports Clinic. In addition to mountain bike and jogging tours above the snow line a tough hike to the “Hörnli” mountain and subsequent climbing tours to the “Hörnlisteig” and “Rothorn” were on the agenda. Before and after the units the blood values of the “Dakar” athletes were analysed. “The high-altitude training offers several positive aspects to the athletes. For one, it automatically results in a higher specific cardiovascular strain and thus raises the individual’s performance capacity. For the other, our programme is designed to be easy on joints and muscles,” explained Dr Johannes Peil, Director of the Bad Nauheim Sports Clinic.

Team evening at the chalet: four drivers, four co-drivers working together for the same goal

Besides the training units during the fitness week the programme was focused on strengthening team spirit. “We covered quite a bit of vertical distance, both on our bikes and on foot,” reveals Timo Gottschalk, co-driver of Nasser Al-Attiyah. “From an athletic perspective, this gave us a pretty good assessment of the shape we’re in. We now know what kinds of things we have to pay attention to during our personal training for the ‘Dakar’. The fact that we completed all the units together has intensified our feeling of being part of one team.” Therefore, a joint social evening of the four “Dakar” duos at a chalet in a rustic atmosphere marked the traditional conclusion of the programme.