Dress rehearsal in the desert -- Towering up to 100 metres, the Erg Chebbi sand dunes lie 50 kilometres south-east of Erfoud in Morocco. For seven days, this imposing Sahara landscape provides the Volkswagen Rally Team a testing area to prepare for the Telef?nica Dakar 2003. Six weeks prior to the start of that spectacular desert rally, drivers and cars will be put to the test under competition conditions here. At 28 degrees in the shade, the three driver teams (Kleinschmidt/Pons, Depping/Bachhuber and Henrard/Willis) will alternately make test runs of various lengths. Short loops of five to six kilometres will be used to tune the drive-train. Again and again, mechanics and engineers will make adjustments to get even better results, and then send the rear-wheel drive Volkswagen Buggy back on the "road".
Distances of up to 200 kilometres will test the reliability and endurance of the TDI(r)-powered rally car. Of course, this aspect plays an especially important role in testing for the Dakar, in which stages of six to seven hundred kilometres are not seldom. The best technology is of no use if it can't withstand the incomparable permanent strain. The cooling is also significant here, and the best results can be obtained in practical testing under such extreme climatic conditions.
Despite the tension and physical exertion under these conditions, the spirit in the team is excellent. The Volkswagen Buggy masters the dunes in grand form thanks to its excellent springing, and the benefits of the diesel technology used become very clear.
Volkswagen will first test its rally team during the Telef?nica Dakar 2003 with a Buggy. Because the course conditions in the Dakar, despite popular belief, are very varied, a competition car must be very versatile. After all, the three-week rally means overcoming not only desert and dunes, but also rocky terrain and high-speed sections on hard surfaces with top speeds up to 200 kph. A further factor that needs to be taken into account is Africa's extreme temperatures. For testing these characteristics, a Buggy is a technically solid and also inexpensive solution. The 2.2 metre wide, 218 bhp competition model consists of a Buggy chassis from America and a carbon-Kevlar body. The tubular-frame construction is powered by a Volkswagen four-cylinder 1.9 litre TDI® engine with rear-wheel drive. Thus the diesel Buggy with a wheelbase of 3.06 metres will be in the class for vehicles from 1160 kg minimum weight. Because of its low consumption, the TDI® motor brings substantial benefits. This Buggy model provides the newly formed Volkswagen Team the opportunity to subject technology and processes to their first ordeal by fire.
A cockpit manned by a strong and perfectly tuned driver duo decides victory or defeat in a marathon race. At the start of the 2003 season, the Telef?nica Dakar Rally, Volkswagen will be represented by an international team of six renowned professional drivers, both male and female: Jutta Kleinschmidt, Fabrizia Pons, St?phane Henrard, Bobby Willis, Dieter Depping and Walter Bachhuber with all their extensive experience as rally drivers and navigators stand for the success of the Touareg project. During testing in Morocco, the three newly formed teams under the leadership of team manager, Erwin Weber, put their abilities to the test under conditions similar to the Dakar and prepared themselves for their first competition in the best possible way.
Jutta Kleinschmidt (Driver), Fabrizia Pons (Co-driver)
St?phane Henrard (Driver), Bobby Willis (Co-driver)
Dieter Depping (Driver), Walter Bachhuber (Co-driver)