Volkswagen to contest 2011 Dakar Rally with new Race Touareg 3
Extreme desert passages, dizzying heights in the Andes, fast gravel sections - the Dakar Rally remains the longest and toughest test in motorsport: Volkswagen is determined to bring the title home to Wolfsburg for the third consecutive time. This is the aim for which the new Race Touareg 3 and the four proven driver pairings have been carefully prepared. Volkswagen is the only manufacturer so far to have decided the automobile classification of the desert classic in its favour with diesel technology. From 01 to 16 January 2011, which marks the third edition of the "Dakar" through Argentina and Chile, the historic 2009 and 2010 exploits are to be succeeded by another triumph with TDI power. The challenge remains an immense one: in addition to battling very powerful rally rivals, the Volkswagen squad first has to successfully master the gruelling special stages, which means beating the "Dakar" itself.
"The two past `Dakar' victories are the greatest successes which Volkswagen has so far achieved in motorsport. But this by no means makes the task any easier. Our rivals will do everything within their power to defeat us, plus the entire squad will be in for 14 tough days," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "This is why we didn't rest on our laurels but have systematically optimised the Race Touareg on the proven base. Mechanics, engineers, co-drivers and drivers, as well, have been working on many details to be prepared better than ever. It will again be a difficult task but we're tackling the 2011 Dakar Rally with confidence. Our aim is to win for the third consecutive time."
Four new Race Touareg cars, four strong Volkswagen duos, one aim
For the hat-trick mission Volkswagen relies on the newly developed third generation of the Race Touareg. The four 310-hp "Dakar" prototypes will be piloted at the cross-country rally from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans and back by proven driver/co-driver pairings. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) - who have been unbeaten at four jointly contested cross-country rallies so far - will start into the event as the title defenders. The winners of the 2009 "Dakar" - Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) - are regarded as equally tough team- internal rivals as Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), who finished 2010 as the runners-up with a narrow margin, and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), who were the narrowly beaten runners-up in 2009.
The next one is always the toughest one: 9,000 kilometres through South America
The most arid region on Earth is the Dakar Rally's centrepiece: the Atacama desert. In 2011 six of the 14 special stages will take place in these inhospitable areas. In addition to high dunes with deep sand, two crossings of the Andes at altitudes of over 4,700 metres above mean sea level and fast gravel stages on hard soil will be part of the daily challenges.
Organization and mobility in perfection: the "Dakar" logistics
37.5 cubic metres of cargo space per service truck, the contents printed on a loading list consisting of 60 single-spaced A4 pages, a total of 50 tons of materials "on tour": a carefully thought-out organisation supports the complex logistics operations of the Volkswagen squad at the 2011 Dakar Rally. Every spare part, every tool and every consumable has been stowed in the nine service trucks so that it can be used within seconds to perfectly support the workflow of the mechanics. The logistics behind the four Race Touareg 3 vehicles, behind Carlos Sainz, Giniel de Villiers and company is an important factor of success. The Volkswagen service crew is constantly on the road itself during the Dakar Rally: on 15 rally days the 72 team members - from the mechanic and engineer through to the motorsport director - travel the near-7,000-kilometre service route with a total of 20 support vehicles. The "Dakar" convoy only rests on two days. On all others an average route of 530 kilometres plus altitudes of up to 4,748 metres above mean sea level in the Andes are on the daily agenda. Severe strains are part of the day-to-day routines of the "Dakar" service teams supporting the contenders.
"Once the `Dakar' has started and our team moves through South American from bivouac to bivouac, all gears have to mesh," says Lutz Meyer, who is responsible for logistics in the Volkswagen factory team. According to the regulations there is no possibility to deliver spare parts later. Therefore, the entire logistics process had to be in place before shipping the service trucks from Le Havre at the end of November."
Step by step to the "Dakar": delivery, quality assurance, loading
From the receiving docks through to fielding at the "Dakar": perfection in every detail is crucial to ensuring a smooth process flow. In addition to warehousing operations, this even concerns quality inspections. Before it is approved and rated as "Dakar-ready" and loaded onto one of the service trucks every supply part passes through a complex process. It starts when the part is delivered to the factory halls of Volkswagen Motorsport.
First, the spare part receives a Volkswagen-internal article and serial number. For better identification each spare part is provided with a 2D barcode, a Data Matrix. Then the spare part is captured by handheld scanners for registration in warehouse software before the quality assurance team performs an in-depth inspection of all failure- and performance- relevant components. The motto is: trust, but verify. When a gearbox is delivered for example - which in the case of the Race Touareg 3 is provided by a renowned supplier - specialised mechanics will completely dismantle it, examine the single components for minute material damage using non-destructive methods and subsequently reassemble the unit. This activity aims to detect hidden defects early on.
Uncompromising efficiency: the Volkswagen bivouac "on tour"
In addition to the nine service and trucks furnished by supplier MAN, the Volkswagen convoy which moves from bivouac to bivouac in Argentina and Chile, and which represents the sporting "life insurance" of the four Volkswagen duos, includes nine Volkswagen PanAmericana Multivans to transport the team members. Two MAN race trucks as registered entrants follow the contenders' vehicles along the rally route at racing speed. At the stage destination the Volkswagen bivouac is set up every day within a few minutes from the service trucks in an area marked by the organiser. It accommodates service areas for the four Race Touareg 3 vehicles, work tents for the mechanics and engineers, a mobile kitchen and covered spaces where the drivers receive their physiotherapy. Even servicing of the service vehicles is part of the setup. A trailer supplies parts and equipment as needed to the race, service and equipment trucks as well as to the Volkswagen Amarok cars which are used, among other things, as reconnaissance vehicles by the organiser.
Short distances, carefully planned processes: the service provided on site
To each Race Touareg a service truck is allocated during the Dakar Rally. It carries a sufficient supply of spare parts from which a new "RT3" could be built in case of an emergency. A large number of wearing parts are on board. Each service truck has side walls which can be opened by upward and downward folding that requires just a few moves and through which the truck's interior can be entered for quick and easy access to the required equipment. Not only the Volkswagen bivouac operates independently of any external utilities, but also the service trucks themselves are autonomous: each of the four MAN-6x6 trucks carries a power generator, a light balloon plus additional spotlights in order to supply sufficient electric power and light to the service area of a rally vehicle. A small shop with a workbench plus grinding and milling machines is part of the basic equipment as well. The equipment and organization of each truck is designed to ensure an efficient alignment of the entire on-site service process flow.
Well-adjusted choreography: the roads the Volkswagen squad travels on the stages
The bivouac is the common destination of the entire Volkswagen squad but the roads each support vehicle travels to get there are based on a plan that is synchronised in every detail. It varies from day to day, depending on the particular leg. Whereas the crews of the Race Touareg 3 and the race trucks on the liaison to the special stages initially follow the service and then the timed route the service crew always travels along the so-called assistance route. The time schedule, however, varies, depending on the task. On the assistance route, just before the rally route branches off, one of the MAN service trucks is used to provide service at the start and later, when the two routes merge again, at the finish. One Volkswagen Multivan PanAmericana each, with engineers and mechanics on board, follows the Race Touareg before and after the special stages while the remainder of the service vehicles wait for the rally vehicles to arrive at the bivouac. All other service trucks and support vehicles directly tackle the prescribed assistance route in order to have finished setting up the bivouac in time for the rally vehicles' arrival. The aim is to leave nothing to chance during the daily course of events.