8 days until the 2009 Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile
Giniel de Villiers: "We've assembled the best package for the 'Dakar'"
Wolfsburg (26 December 2008). With second place in the 2006 Dakar Rally Volkswagen factory driver Giniel de Villiers recorded the best result to date for a diesel powered vehicle. If it is a question of the first diesel victory ever in this cross country classic when the "Dakar" makes its debut in South America (3 to 18 January), then the South African together with his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz in the Race Touareg equipped with a 280 hp TDI engine once again numbers among the leading candidates. In a short interview the 36-year old from Stellenbosch talks about the forthcoming stresses and strains during the 9,578 kilometre long desert rally through Argentina and Chile, the intensive preparations and also the chances of victory -- and about a very special reward waiting at the finish.
The "Dakar" is regarded as the greatest challenge in motorsport, as acid test for man and machine. What do you need to master it victoriously?
Giniel de Villiers: "Three things are important. Firstly: You have to prepare as well as possible and you must not, in anyway whatsoever leave anything to chance. The same goes for the team as well as the material, drivers and co-drivers. The Dakar Rally really is a team game. Another thing is that you must always make the right decision throughout the 15 days of competition. A small mistake and the rally can be over before it really began. Last but by no means least you need Lady Luck on your side so that things develop to your benefit."
What chances does Volkswagen have of winning the "Dakar"?
"I firmly believe that Volkswagen has a great chance of winning the 'Dakar'. With the Race Touareg we have a fast, well-developed and very reliable car. I think the driver/co-driver pairs are also perfectly prepared. We have done our homework throughout the year and have assembled the best package."
What is so special about the Dakar Rally's premiere in South America?
"It is very difficult to assess beforehand just how the 'new Dakar' will really look and what challenges it provides. There are a great many unknowns this year such as, for example, how the terrain is. After all, what you hear is that it will be harder than in the previous years. The stages are long; the temperatures are higher than in Africa and many passages with high sand dunes await us. So, I'm convinced that the organisers have put together a unique rally."
One of the unknown factors is the extreme heights which must be overcome when crossing the Andes. What is so special about this?
"The factor altitude is really something completely new for every team. We'll also drive up to 4,700 metres above sea level - it won't just be the engines that struggle for air. The drivers and co-drivers must also be prepared for these conditions. In view of the tests made with the Race Touareg in the climate chamber I believe that nothing from the technical side has been left to chance. The same can be said for the drivers and co-drivers. We attached a great deal of value to physical fitness, because you only have the concentration required to prevent mistakes if you are in perfect physical condition."
Preparation for the "Dakar" is concluded. How are you spending the time till you drive over the start ramp in Buenos Aires on 3 January?
"To be quite honest the next few days will be the only time I have to relax after the tough fitness programme. On 28 December I fly from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. We'll have plenty of opportunity to acclimatise to the time difference there, accompany our rally cars through technical scrutineering and attend our PR obligations."
You come from one of South Africa's best wine regions. The rally route also runs through Mendoza from where the best South American wines come from. Will you have the opportunity to enjoy it?
"During the competition certainly not, after the next day is always the toughest. This is especially the case for the stage from Mendoza to Valparaiso on the route which leads across the Andes. However, perhaps I'll have the opportunity to by a bottle of wine there and take it with me, and when we achieve what we set out to do - which means winning the 'Dakar' - we'll open it at the finish and savour it to the full."