10 days until the 2010 Dakar Rally
Do it yourself: The choreography of a tyre change
Wolfsburg (23 December 2009). A sharp stone hidden in deep sand or a massive boulder lying on the track are the trigger -- during the 2010 Dakar Rally changing tyres numbers among the typical challenges facing Volkswagen factory drivers Carlos Sainz, Giniel de Villiers, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Mark Miller and Mauricio Neves. Statistically seen it affects every team about three to four times throughout the approximate 9,000 kilometre cross country rally through Argentina and Chile. During the stages the drivers and co-drivers must manage without their experienced service crew and instead tackle the problem themselves.
"Thanks to the long-standing cooperation with BFGoodrich the Race Touareg is equipped with a first class tyre: The 'All Terrain' provides excellent traction on various ground and is also enormously resistant. Punctures nevertheless occur - hidden stones or small errors are unavoidable during the Dakar," explains Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "Because the clock continues during a tyre stop the skill is to lose as little time as possible. It is all the more important to be perfectly equipped: Through the drivers' extensive training, but also as a result of perfect tools and well-thought out installations and devices on the Volkswagen Race Touareg."
Changing the near 40-kilogram wheel and tyre is made according to an exact choreography. "Every movement is defined and trained," explains Dirk von Zitzewitz, "Dakar" winner in 2009 and co-driver to the South African Giniel de Villiers. The first step is to get prepared for the task: "Even as we are still searching for level ground to stop, I put on gloves as the wheels can be red-hot," explains Timo Gottschalk co-pilot of Volkswagen works driver Nasser Al-Attiyah. "In the event of a puncture to the right-rear tyre I pass the heavy duty battery-operated wrench to Nasser. We swap the tasks if the puncture is on the left." Things happen very quickly the moment the car is stationary. Gottschalk loosens the seat belts, jumps out of the car, runs around to the rear cover, loosens one of the two to four spare wheels and brings it to the right-hand rear corner of the vehicle. Meanwhile Al-Attiyah has jacked up the rally car with the built-in hydraulic car jack, removed the five wheel nuts and taken off the punctured tyre. While the co-driver loads the punctured tyre and clears away the tools, the driver bolts the new wheel on. "The most difficult thing is to lift the wheel and to mount it onto the five wheel-studs without jamming it," explains Al-Attiyah. Both jump back into the cockpit. "1 minute 16 seconds is our best time, obviously including loading the wheel and belting up," explains Timo Gottschalk. "It is important to stay under two minutes to prevent having to drive in the dust cloud kicked-up by the next car and losing time." The journey can continue.