Four Volkswagen Race diesel Touareg 2 vehicles are taking part in the 2009 Dakar event
This year, for the first time in its history, the race is being held through Argentina and Chile, taking competitors from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back, through some of the most extreme driving conditions to be found anywhere in the world
Starting in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 3rd January 2009, and covering more than 5,625 grueling miles (9,000 kilometres) over 15 stages, the Dakar Rally will include passage through the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world with the highest dune fields, together with two crossings of the Andes, encountering altitudes of up to 4,600 metres. In preparation, all of the VW drivers have completed altitude training in the Alps, and the 2.5-litre TDI engines have been subjected to thousands of miles of extensive durability testing in an environment chamber designed to simulate the extreme altitudes they will encounter.
The constantly changing landscapes and varying terrain along the route are not only extremely demanding tests for the vehicles, drivers and co-drivers, but also provide a new set of challenges for the technicians and engineers in terms of vehicle set-up and maintenance.
The four factory-fielded Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 models will be piloted by Spaniard Carlos Sainz and his French navigator Michel Perlin; Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and Dirk von Zitzewith (Germany); Mark Miller (USA) and Ralph Pitchford (South Africa) and Dieter Depping partnered with fellow German, Timo Gottschalk. The Touareg race cars are constructed at Volkswagen Motorsport in Hanover, Germany.
Discussing details about the 2.5-litre engine, Donatus Wichelhaus, Head of Engine Development at Volkswagen Motorsport said: “This powerplant offers a number of advantages for use in cross-country rally racing. The engine develops very good torque, which has a positive effect, particularly on sandy ground. Due to its lower consumption, a dieselpowered vehicle can start on a long leg with a smaller amount of fuel in the tank. The weight advantage compared to a car with a petrol engine can thus be as much as 200 kilogrammes.”
“The team is looking forward to the event with eager anticipation. At the same time, the Dakar Rally’s debut in South America is one of the biggest challenges Volkswagen has tackled so far,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “With two wins and a second place in three events, the Race Touareg has been extremely successful this year.”
“At ‘The Dakar’ we’ll give everything to add the greatest victory of all to this tally. Everyone in the team knows that we’re strong enough to reach this goal. Yet the sport, and particularly the Dakar Rally, always offers surprises. We will work with concentration in order to prevail against strong rivals in extremely tough conditions.”