29 years ago, on 23 January 1980, Freddy Kottulinsky/Gerhard Löffelmann clinched the first victory for Volkswagen at the “2nd Paris-Algiers-Dakar Rally” in the Iltis, ahead of their French team-mates Patrick Zaniroli/Philippe Colesse.
Back then as well as today, Volkswagen celebrated a one-two victory: Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) won the current edition of the desert classic, which ended in Buenos Aires on Sunday after 9,500 kilometres, in front of their team colleagues Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in the Race Touareg. On the way towards clinching the first victory of a diesel-powered vehicle Volkswagen decided ten out of 13 stages in its favour at the first “Dakar” through Argentina and Chile.
The one-two victory prompted the driver pairing that had been victorious in 1980 to congratulate Volkswagen. ”Ever since I won the rally, I’ve been watching it in the media,” said Freddy Kottulinsky, who is now living near Schleiz in Thuringia. “I wanted to express my sincerest congratulations to Volkswagen on the historic TDI victory. Even though an exploit in our day with naturally aspirated diesel engines would have been inconceivable, I had no doubt that a diesel would win one day. In passenger cars, modern diesel technology has long become the ultimate.”
Kottulinsky/Löffelmann in the Iltis: unusual conditions in 1980
“Of course I’ve actively been watching Volkswagen’s current path to victory in the media as well, and congratulate the squad,” said former co-driver Gerhard Löffelmann. Back then, he was working for AUDI AG in Technical Development; today, he is a team leader in vehicle engineering, still with the same department. After almost 30 years, the differences in conditions are tremendous. We only drove with a compass, now there are modern GPS systems, even though their use is restricted. What’s more, I didn’t even have any experience as a co-driver. My main role was that of a mechanic who had to be able to repair the car and to thus help to take it to the finish.” Löffelmann still has the roadbook. It was all in French and then team boss Roland Gumpert – the driver of a rally Iltis himself – helped to translate it every night at the bivouac.
Back in 1980, an almost entirely production-based Volkswagen Iltis sufficed to achieve the duo’s victory. The off-road vehicle was only complemented by underbody protection, modified dampers, a roll cage, different seats, additional instruments and a further fuel tank. The standard 1.7-litre engine delivered about 110 instead of 75 hp for the 10,000-kilometre rally distance from France via Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and (then) Upper Volta, all the way to Senegal. “That was enough to win,” recalled Kottulinsky. As much as he enjoyed his activities as a racing and rally driver in his day, he still has a wish, “I’d really be thrilled to drive today’s Race Touareg just for once …”