17 days until the 2010 Dakar Rally
Mauricio Neves: "The TDI engines are quite simply fantastic"
Wolfsburg (16 December 2009). Mauricio Neves is still a rather unknown name for the many Volkswagen fans in Europe. There are nevertheless good reasons why the Brazilian together with co-driver Clecio Maestrelli belong to the factory squad for the 2010 Dakar Rally: The 40-year old rally driver is one of the big names in his homeland. He has already won his country's most important off-road championships on numerous occasions and made his debut in the Race Touareg in the Rally dos Sertões. Mauricio Neves, who lives with his wife and two children in Curitiba in the Brazilian state Parana, gives an insight into his environment through his answers about the subject of his "Dakar" debut with Volkswagen.
About his Dakar Rally debut
"When I started rallying in 1999 I never dreamt of this. For every cross country rally driver to compete in the Dakar Rally with a factory team is the greatest thing you can achieve. There has never been a Brazilian driver who has started for a factory team. There has frequently been fellow countryman who have competed in the Dakar Rally without, however, the chance of a good result. I want to savour every moment to the full. It is like a fairytale for a boy from Curitiba who admired the cars in his father's workshop."
About the difference between the Dakar Rally and Brazilian events
"The sand dunes are the biggest difference for Clecio and I. Although there are also sand and dunes in Brazil the rallies in our country do tend, however, to avoid these areas. But, I have had the opportunity twice since 2006 to contest the Por Las Pampas Rally in Argentina and Chile. It shares many tracks with today's Dakar Rally. We managed to adapt very well to the conditions."
About the Race Touareg
"I've driven many race cars and have already competed in Formula 3000 in Europe. Compared to this one thing in particularly was striking on the Race Touareg: It is very highly developed but nevertheless very simple. There is nothing that is superfluous to requirements. Many electronic controls and equipment are a genuine help, especially on the very long stages. After the first visual impression I also got a feeling for its power during the Rally dos Sertões. The car is fantastic and easily copes with many of the loads. The Race Touareg is a real rocket!"
About the strengths of TDI technology
"The Volkswagen TDI engines are quite simply fantastic. They are not only extremely positive for the environment because of their consumption, but they also can be driven much more light-footedly than a petrol engine. The torque characteristics and power delivery are ideal for cross country rallying."
About the comparison between racing and rallying
"I like rallying more. I've already collected experience of circuits with Ferrari and Radical prototypes. Several years ago I competed once in the Mil Milhas Brazil, a 1,000-mile circuit race, in a Ferrari 550 Maranello. In 2006 with my team mates Lucas Molo and Nelson Siva Jr. we were eleventh overall and seventh in the GTP1 class. Obviously the track is the same every lap. You always have to take the same ideal line. In rallying, but more specifically in cross country rallying you have many more options. Perhaps this is the reason why even Formula 1 drivers are interested in rallying."
About the strengths of his co-driver Clecio Maestrelli
"Clecio is a great friend and companion. We've driven together since 2005. Unfortunately, we couldn't compete in the Rally dos Sertões together because he started on a motorbike. Now we compete as a team again. A good relationship with one another is the key to success for a driver and co-driver. I'm very happy to be competing with Clecio again."
About the importance of the South American market for Volkswagen
"For me it's visible every day that Volkswagen is an integral component of the Brazilian market - as it is throughout the entire world. The brand is the largest automobile manufacturer in Brazil and employs 21,600 people there. Twenty-two models are produced here. Brazil is the third most important market in the world for Volkswagen. The products meet the highest worldwide demands. Now the launch of the Amarok, which as Pick-up is very important for Brazil, is being prepared. It is a great dream for me to be able to compete for this brand."
About his physical preparations
"I've started an intensive fitness programme which I carry out three times a week. In addition I go swimming two days a week. I also practice on karts to keep my reflexes sharp."
About his personal preferences for different types of track
"Earlier I drove in typical sprint rallies with special stages. I prefer to drive through the mountains and love tracks full of bends and climbs and drops. However, the Dakar Rally throws up something of everything every day, including sand and dunes. This suits versatile drivers and favours nobody in particular."
About practical ability in the Dakar Rally
"I'm a trained and qualified mechanic and worked in my father's workshop in my youth. Which is why my future co-drivers didn't necessarily have to possess any practical skills. During the Rally dos Sertões I destroyed the rear suspension. When somebody arrived with a welding machine I was able to repair the damage myself before the Volkswagen service truck reached us. However, I hope that I won't require this skill in the next Dakar Rally..."