Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year. No sooner are they over and the Dakar Rally starts. Volkswagen confronts the legendary marathon from 1 to 15 January 2011 with four Race Touareg. Reliability, staying power and performance are the essentials on the 15 stages over almost 9,000 kilometres through Argentina and Chile. The 310 hp Race Touareg underwent detailed optimization to successfully master the greatest challenge by far that worldwide motorsport has to offer – and also the four driver pairings have prepared themselves for months for the two-week hunt through the Atacama Desert, the majestic Andes and the Pampa: Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) aim to bring the coveted Dakar trophy to Wolfsburg for the third time in succession.
“A further developed and even stronger Race Touareg, four proven duos – our goal for the 2011 Dakar Rally is very clear, to add another victory to those from 2009 and 2010,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “We left nothing to chance on the way to the ‘Dakar’ and have prepared ourselves meticulously down to the smallest detail. We are also well aware that we will have to fend off strong opponents. In addition to the X-raid-BMW team and Robbie Gordon’s Hummer it will be more specifically one thing and one thing alone: the Dakar Rally itself. We approach the challenge with the greatest respect.”
Stronger than ever before: the third generation Race Touareg
One-two in 2009, podium lockout in 2010: the Race Touareg 2 is easily the most successful diesel car in “Dakar” history. For the 33rd running of the desert classic Volkswagen sends four newly developed Race Touareg 3. Revolutionary shell, evolutionary core – the metamorphosis to “RT3” followed a clear development target: to be as radical as necessary yet as conservative as possible. The result: completely reworked aerodynamics with a fundamentally optimised cooling concept as well as detail developments of the transmission and suspension components building on the successful basis of the predecessor.
The new air flow around the “RT3” ensures that the ram air is channelled more effectively under the mere 50 kilogram carbon body. A larger dimensioned water cooler is also used. The increase in cooling potential is clearly apparent thanks to the resulting plus in power where power is required off-road: On particularly slow desert sections comprised of soft sand. Also the proven 2.5 litre TDI engine, improved in detail for 2011, produces more power in its current form. The compression ignition power plant produces 310 hp (228 kW) thanks to a new, more efficient intercooler system. A reworked gearbox improves drivability of the Race Touareg 3 on different types of terrain.
“The Race Touareg has been an extremely reliable and steadfast car for years,” says last year’s winner Carlos Sainz, who starts in 2011 as defending “Dakar” title holder together with his fellow Spaniard Lucas Cruz in the Race Touareg 3 with start number 300. “I know that I rely on him and also the 72 Volkswagen team members who service the ‘RT3’ every day. This was the key to my first ‘Dakar’ victory in 2010. Reliability is our great strength again in 2011. I will also do my utmost to successfully defend my title.”
Experienced and hungry for success: the Volkswagen duos at the “Dakar” 2011
“Dakar” winner and “Dakar” runner-up: Success achieved in the Race Touareg – every single Volkswagen pair can lay claim to both a successful past and also vast experience in the world’s toughest rally. “The world’s best cross country rally drivers probably compete for Volkswagen,” says Nasser Al-Attiyah who, together with co-driver Timo Gottschalk, finished second behind Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz in January 2010. It was the closest finish in “Dakar” history. “If you want to win the ‘Dakar’ you must first beat your own team mates. I think Volkswagen has the most well balanced driver line-up among the teams. After our narrow defeat last year Timo and I want to prove that we are winners.”
In 2010 Sainz/Cruz and Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk clinched first and second places in the Dakar Rally in a thrilling showdown, in 2009 the other two Volkswagen duos who contest the 2011 “Dakar” fought among themselves for victory: Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz as well as Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford. Having racked up 14 cross-country rallies together De Villiers/von Zitzewitz is the most established duo in the Volkswagen ranks, Miller/Pitchford are credited with nine rallies.
The “Dakar” respects its principles: even more challenges for the teams
The Dakar Rally also remains loyal to its principles for the 33rd running: “Expect the unexpected” and “the next Dakar is always the hardest” are the basic principles of the desert classic. In 2011, following the fast gravel sections in north-west Argentina participants must also tackle the crossing of tropical forests. After overcoming the Andes via the 4,400 metre high ‘Paso de Jama’, six stages alone follow in the Atacama Desert – the heart of the 2011 “Dakar”: Soft sand, gravel sections and salt formations form the daily changing and varied mix of terrain in the far north of Chile. However, even after the second Andes crossing along the Paso San Francisco resting 4,748 metres above sea level the worst is still far from over. The infamous white dunes of Fiambalá pose the opening to a final trilogy of partially fast, twisting sections.
“The ‘Dakar’ provides a huge array of completely different types of terrain, frequently on just a single rally day,” says Mark Miller, second in the 2009 “Dakar” and third overall in 2010 with co-driver Ralph Pitchford. “From crossing dunes to gravel tracks, from trial like terrain to full throttle stretches – real all-round qualities are required here. This suits me actually.”
Healthy body, alert mind: ideal preparation for two “Dakar” weeks
“Mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body says a Latin proverb. This is valid in a unique way for the Volkswagen “Dakar” drivers and co-drivers. Their preparations for the desert classic included, in addition to personal fitness programmes supported by common training among the peaks of the Swiss Alps, also mechanical training. The crews learned to help themselves in the event of emergency on the new Race Touareg 3 – basic knowledge for small repairs.
“Physical fitness for the driver is the name of the game for the Dakar Rally,” says Giniel de Villiers, who claimed in 2009 the first “Dakar” victory for a diesel powered car with his German navigator Dirk Von Zitzewitz. “Only those who are in the best physical condition can survive these two weeks and drive at the highest level.”
Blue angels – the mobile Volkswagen service point on tour in South America
The Volkswagen factory team’s service vehicles complete a marathon in parallel to the marathon. During the day the 20 vehicles, from service and equipment truck to Volkswagen Multivan PanAmericana, cover a distance averaging over 500 kilometres, in the evenings the engineers and technicians service the four Race Touareg 3. For this purpose two trucks have a unique task: The race trucks compete, like the Race Touareg 3, in the rally competition and thus complete the same route like the “Dakar” prototypes. In this way they can intervene in the event of an emergency if a Race Touareg needs help. Thanks to their presence Volkswagen can claim a proud record: The last technical related retirement for a Race Touareg dates back to January 2007.
2011 Dakar Rally route
Date, Stage, Start – Finish, Stage, Liaison, Total
01.01.2011, Buenos Aires (RA)–Victoria, show start, 377 km, 377 km
02.01.2011, 01, Victoria (RA)–Córdoba (RA), 222 km, 566 km, 788 km
03.01.2011, 02, Córdoba (RA)–San Miguel (RA), 324 km, 440 km, 764 km
04.01.2011, 03, San Miguel (RA)–San Salvador (RA), * 500 km, 231 km, 731 km
05.01.2011, 04, San Salvador (RA)–Calama (RCH), 207 km, 554 km, 761 km
06.01.2011, 05, Calama (RCH)–Iquique (RCH), 423 km, 36 km, 459 km
07.01.2011, 06, Iquique (RCH)–Arica (RCH), 456 km, 265 km, 721 km
08.01.2011, Arica (RCH), rest day
09.01.2011, 07, Arica (RCH)–Antofagasta (RCH), 611 km, 208 km, 819 km
10.01.2011, 08, Antofagasta (RCH)–Copiapó (RCH), 508 km, 268 km, 776 km
11.01.2011, 09, Copiapó (RCH)–Copiapó (RCH), 235 km, 35 km, 270 km
12.01.2011, 10, Copiapó (RCH)–Chilecito (RA), 176 km, 686 km, 862 km
13.01.2011, 11, Chilecito (RA)–San Juan (RA), * 622 km, 164 km, 786 km
14.01.2011, 12, San Juan (RA)–Córdoba (RA), 555 km, 123 km, 678 km
15.01.2011, 13, Córdoba (RA)–Buenos Aires (RA), 181 km, 645 km, 826 km
16.01.2011, Buenos Aires (RA), award ceremony
Total, 5,020 km, 4,598 km, 9,618 km
* Two-part stage