Volkswagen Motorsport departs: Just one day after Christmas the Volkswagen factory team set off to Lisbon, where the rally starts on 6 January.
Thirty vehicles – including four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 for the driver teams Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford, Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz – will attack the near 9,000 kilometre route from Lisbon to Dakar in the Senegal. A total of 78 team members are in action during the 16-day marathon that treks through six countries.
“After months of hard and intensive work the entire team is happy that the rally is finally underway”, explains Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “The departure for Lisbon, where technical scrutineering is held between 3 and 5 January, signals that our months of preparations for the ‘Dakar’ have finally come to an end. Drivers, the Race Touareg and the entire fleet of support vehicles are well prepared for the high demands made by the classic desert rally.”
78 team members cross six countries from Lisbon to Dakar
Volkswagen Motorsport was full of hustle and bustle in the days before Christmas: A total of 25 tonnes of tools, spare parts and equipment are distributed among the factory team’s 30 support vehicles. The three Race-Trucks driven by Dieter Depping (Wedemark), Josep Pujol (Spain) and François Verbist (Belgium) play a special role. As registered participants in the Truck class, they are able to rush to assist any of the four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 prototypes, if required, in their 480 hp specially prepared MAN L90s fully loaded with spares. On the two marathon stages, during which support from the regular engineering squad is forbidden, the Race-Truck crews are actually the only help for the factory drivers at the evening service. “If one of the rally cars needs help after an accident or technical problem we are equipped for every type of emergency”, explains Race-Truck driver Depping, as three-time German Rally Champion also an experienced rallying professional. “However, we obviously hope that we are not actually needed.”
The team’s seven service and equipment trucks serve as reliable hauliers. The MAN trucks follow a different route than the competing vehicles during the rally and drive directly from bivouac to bivouac. In addition to the spares and equipment they also transport 400 pre-mounted wheels and tyres, twelve tents serving as mobile workshops and office space for the team management, doctors, drivers and co-drivers as well as tables and benches, all the luggage belonging to the factory drivers and, for example, 2,000 ‘quick’ soups as snacks for the team.
Also travelling with the Volkswagen Dakar Rally fleet are nine Service Touaregs, a TV truck, three Volkswagen Transporter T5s and three Press-Touaregs. The T5 busses and V6 TDI Touareg model, which are perfectly suited in their standard form to the rigorous desert marathon and were adapted to suit the “Dakar” regulations by adding additional safety features, are used to transport the team because almost every one of the 78 team members complete the rally route on four wheels. “The Touaregs and T5 busses have proven to be reliable workhorses bringing team and luggage from stage-finish to stage-finish”, explains Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen.
The regulations stipulate that every team member is permanently assigned to a specific service vehicle during the Dakar Rally – changing to another a vehicle is strictly prohibited. “The regulations also prohibit spares or personnel being ‘delivered’ during the rally”, explains Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “The planning for the 2007 Dakar Rally took almost eleven months. We want to be prepared for every eventuality; however, the event will nevertheless spring a surprise or two for us. That’s why logistics and organisation are the biggest challenges in this motorsport event, which does after all run the entire distance of a Formula 1 season within a fortnight.” The four Volkswagen Race Touaregs and twelve Service-Touaregs are shipped on special transporters to Portugal. On the other hand, the Service-Trucks, Race-Trucks and T5 busses complete the 2,500 kilometre journey under their own steam through Germany, France, Spain, and Portugal to Lisbon.
Dakar Rally starts with technical scrutineering in Lisbon
The entire Volkswagen team is in action in Lisbon from 3 January. The official part of the Dakar Rally begins with technical scrutineering at the culture centre in the city quarter Belem; where not only the four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 prototypes and Race-Trucks are checked to see if they are regulation conform. The extensive safety equipment in the other vehicles that form the accompanying armada is also inspected at scrutineering. At the same time all team members must pass through document inspection: From the presentation of a valid driving licence and visas in a passport, the collection of dinner-vouchers for the bivouac to the disclosure of medical information and a navigation course for newcomers – technicians, mechanics, team management, but also team doctors, physiotherapists and press spokespeople must pass through document control according to a predetermined plan before receiving a participants-pass for the Dakar Rally allowing them to start the near 9,000 kilometre long journey through six countries from Lisbon on 6 January.
– VW Motorsport