Kris Nissen: "Success makes us even more hungry"
Wolfsburg (08 December 2009). A new roll for Volkswagen: The Wolfsburg based automobile manufacturer starts the 2010 Dakar Rally as defending champions. Following the first ever victory by a diesel automobile -- namely the Race Touareg in January 2009 -- the brand is confronted again twelve months later by the toughest test that motorsport has to offer. As Motorsport Director Kris Nissen is responsible for the operation title defence in Argentina and Chile, which begins on 2 January and runs over 14 stages and includes 9,000 competitive kilometres. An interview with the 49-year old Dane about the sporting demands, the technical pioneering role and the main goal for the 2010 "Dakar".
Why does Volkswagen compete in the Dakar Rally?
"The 'Dakar' represents an excellent platform for an internationally active manufacturer like Volkswagen to demonstrate technical expertise, and this in the toughest motorsport discipline overall. Compared with other leading categories the 'Dakar' offers a broad platform since these events are followed by billions of people around the world. The media interest is unique. Television reports are broadcast in 189 countries. This is another reason why we are involved in the 'Dakar'."
What are the greatest challenges in cross country rallying?
"To be successful in cross country rallying a great deal of know-how and experience are required from the technical side. Among other things you have to deal with extremely different conditions and correspondingly different terrain. Just the subjects of reliability and the mileage of individual components requires years of experience, which we have collected since we entered cross country rallying."
How do you judge the 2009 motorsport year from Volkswagen's point of view?
"We can look back with pride over a successful year in 2009. It goes without saying that the one-two 'Dakar' result in particular stands out, but also victories in the equally demanding rallies like the 'Sertões' in Brazil or the 'Silk Way' through Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In addition come the three Formula 3 titles won in Great Britain, Germany and at the world final in Macau or the successful Scirocco GT24 outing in the 24-hour race at the Nurburgring that make 2009 the most successful of our brand's 43-year motorsport history."
Now operation "Dakar" title defence is on the agenda. Is the pressure greater if you are the hunter or the hunted?
"The situation has obviously changed. For the first time we start as defending champions. Nevertheless, our wins have not quenched our desire but in fact make us even hungrier for victory. The expectations from outside are high, but we put ourselves under pressure since we want to prove in January that the first diesel victory in the 'Dakar' was anything but a fluke."
What make you confident that Volkswagen can win again?
"The team's great routine. Every team member knows their job and is sure of what they are doing. This leads to enormous inner calm and concentration within the team. We have also meticulously studied the 'exercise' South America. In addition, we have also done an enormous amount over the last few years to improve efficiency during the 'Dakar' - which paid dividends during the last event. I think that we are even better prepared than ever before."
What are the biggest hurdles on the way to bringing the "Dakar" trophy back to Wolfsburg?
"In sport in general it is not possible to predict success or even to be sure of victory beforehand. This is also valid for motorsport and more specifically for the Dakar Rally. It is not possible to compare this category with others in motorsport. You have to prepare for a new route every day that has never been driven before. The iron rule in cross country rallying is 'expect the unexpected'. The same goes for weather conditions. There are many possibilities to make mistakes and to lose time. Mere details can have a huge effect. There are many factors which play a part. Which is why in 2010 we must also beat the 'Dakar' itself. However, we also have experience of this. To finish first, first you have to finish."
You mentioned the expectations placed on the team by the public. Are these a burden or additional motivation?
"Already in 2009 many outsiders expected Volkswagen to win, and following the dominant one-two the same people are saying this year that anything other than a Volkswagen victory would be a surprise. I can only answer that it will be harder than ever before to win the rally in 2010. The sporting challenge is enormous against the X-raid-BMW and Robby Gordon's Hummer which were already our toughest opponents in 2009. Our competitors have, like us, improved, have a better driver line-up and have sorted out possible problems during their preparations. For these reasons I'm convinced that victory in 2010 will be even harder to come by than in 2009. However, we enter the race with plenty of confidence because we are extremely well prepared to master the challenges thrown up by the 'Dakar'."
Volkswagen was the first manufacturer to win the automobile category in the "Dakar" with diesel technology. In 2010, thanks to Natural Gas power the next innovative concept from Wolfsburg follows in the form of the Scirocco Cup in Germany. Just how important is such a ground breaking direction for a brand like Volkswagen?
"In the past the Volkswagen concern frequently played the pioneering roll and successfully developed technology for motorsport before introducing it in mass production. In motorsport innovations within the bounds of some regulations are developed to an extreme degree. Volkswagen customers benefit directly from this. Volkswagen permanently thinks about the future to develop lasting technologies. The entire world currently talks about vehicles with lower emissions and alternative fuels. The TDI engines are highly efficient, which they also proved in the 'Dakar'. Natural Gas is an innovative, market-ready fuel and Volkswagen already leads in this segment with a 40 per cent market share of assembly line production. With the Scirocco Cup in 2010 we will demonstrate without compromise that sporting dynamic and environmental awareness are compatible with each other. Up to 260 hp despite reducing the CO2 emissions by over 80 per cent are impressive values."