Sainz and Stuck: two world champions for 24 hours in new Scirocco
A premiere with two world champions: for the first time, the former World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz and the former Sportscar World Champion Hans-Joachim Stuck are sharing a cockpit. Sainz (E) and Stuck (A), together with professional cross-country rally racers Giniel de Villiers (RSA) and Dieter Depping (D), will contest the 24-Hour Race at the Nurburgring (24-25 May) in the new Scirocco, which is making its racing debut before its market launch.
A sportscar and touring car expert meets a rally legend. How do you see your famous team-mate?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Of course it's a great thing for me to compete alongside Carlos Sainz. In rallying, he is a similar shining light as Michael Schumacher in Formula 1."
Carlos Sainz: "Hans-Joachim Stuck is a legend, particularly on the Nordschleife. It's truly an honour for to contest this race together with him. His experience is practically unrivalled, I can probably learn quite a bit from him."
What is the special challenge of the 24-Hour Race?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "At this long and extremely demanding race, the team as well as the drivers have to try and make no mistakes whatsoever. In this - ideal - case, you can end up very far at the front. But the Nurburgring-Nordschleife writes its own stories. Precisely this element of uncertainty makes this special event so attractive."
Carlos Sainz: "This is my first 24-Hour Race, that's why I'm really eager to see what's in store for me. In any event, it's a great challenge. My test run in the Volkswagen Golf at the Four-Hour-Race gave me a little foretaste of what it means to drive an endurance race on the Nurburgring. The 24-Hour-Race is probably even more demanding. I'm pleased to have three strong, professional team colleagues - Hans, Giniel and Dieter - at my side. Hans in particular has such an incredible amount of experience."
How important is experience on the 25.359-kilometre Nordschleife with its 33 left- and 40 right-hand corners?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Experience is an important key to success on the Nordschleife. There are many situations where you've got to overtake slower cars. Particularly when overtaking, you need to assure yourself twice that the guy in front has actually seen you and will let you pass. It's better to wait a few turns than having to pit with a damaged car."
Carlos Sainz: "I did have a good opportunity to get to know the Nurburgring in the race. It's a difficult circuit and the Nordschleife is a real driving challenge. I also think that overtaking manoeuvres are a key factor in the race."
With 220 vehicles and some 200,000 spectators lining the circuit, the race is regarded as one of the biggest motorsport events in existence. Do you even notice this huge audience from the cockpit?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Absolutely. You see the many spectators around the 'Ring', the many campers and tents. Particularly at night you take in a lot of this flair as a driver. After all, it never really gets dark along the Nordschleife, there's always a wedge of light from the many fires in the vicinity of the race track. Usually, the smell of the barbecues wafts through the cockpit, as well, and really makes you feel hungry. It's a terrific atmosphere."
Carlos Sainz: "For me, all of this is new. But I can imagine that it's similar to a special stage attended by a large crowd. And that I've always noticed as well. The course of the Nurburgring does resemble a special stage to some extent, because the spectators are relatively close to the action."
Hans-Joachim Stuck, you've been the Motorsport Representative of the Volkswagen Group since the beginning of this year. What motivates you to take the wheel yourself again at the 24-Hour Race?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "I really enjoy my new job, so from December to February I thought that driving wouldn't entice me anymore. But when the tests started, I was again infected with the racing virus. We tested a few days ago - and there's simply nothing better in life than sitting in a racing car in the morning in beautiful weather and working together with great people."
At the 24-Hour-Race, the Volkswagen Scirocco will celebrate its racing debut even before its market launch. How does it feel to compete with this vehicle?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "It's a very special experience indeed. In my 37-year career as a racer, this is the first time that I'm able to take a touring car out on the track before it can be seen in the dealerships' showrooms. We're hoping to do a good job of this because, no doubt, a lot of Volkswagen and Scirocco fans will be present at the Nordschleife."
Carlos Sainz: "It's really exciting to race the Scirocco on the Nordschleife. A brand new car, the many fans, a unique circuit - I'm very much looking forward to the race weekend."
Carlos Sainz, you've already driven a four-hour race with the Volkswagen Golf. How well did you manage switching from the rally track to the Nordschleife?
Carlos Sainz: "I adjusted from the Race Touareg to the circuit quickly. After all, I used to do some circuit racing at the beginning of my motorsport career and tried to bring back these experiences into my mind. And the endurance race went well. However, in traffic it's fairly difficult to find a free lap. This is something I've got to get used to."
How did you prepare for the 24-Hour-Race?
Carlos Sainz: "Actually, I prepared in the same way I normally do for a cross-country rally: I've been following my normal training programme because I want to be in good physical shape. In addition, I reeled off numerous laps on the Nordschleife to memorise the circuit well. I believe I'm well prepared."
What was your first impression of the new Scirocco during the tests?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Well, I hadn't driven a car with front-wheel drive for quite a long time. It was surprising for me to see how much grip the front wheels build up. I was delighted by the functionality of this racing car as well, of the gearbox, the gearshift and the steering."
Carlos Sainz: "I've not driven the Scirocco yet in the tests, that's why I'm eager for the first practice session to come round. But I have seen pictures - the racing version of the Scirocco simply looks great. The production model really has an accomplished design."
How would you describe the handling of the new car?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "It's always predictable, never catches the driver unawares and allows active, precise driving. Particularly for a 24-Hour race this is extremely important."
What goals have you set for yourself and the new Scirocco?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "We're shooting to finish the race with all three Sciroccos, if at all possible, and will try and win the the SP3T class. In the overall classification, a lot is possible."
Carlos Sainz: "We want to cross the finish line and are hoping for a race without major problems, but it will probably not be easy. At such an endurance event, many things happen for which you cannot prepare in advance."
You're sharing the racing car with two other drivers -what role does teamwork play at this race?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Teamwork is a crucial factor. The four drivers sharing a car need to get on well with each other outside of the cockpit too. If the chemistry in the team is good, everyone can do a superb job. If the drivers are of a similar calibre, that's an advantage - so there's no excessive internal competition. For this race, you need drivers who are cool, calm and collected, drivers who know that you can't win anything here on a single lap."
Carlos Sainz: "Teamwork not only concerns the drivers, though, but the entire squad, because you can win or lose a lot of time at the pits. A perfect organisation is extremely important for a good result. So, it's a good feeling to know that that the professional team of Volkswagen is behind you."
Hans-Joachim Stuck, in 1970 you won the inaugural of this race. Afterwards, you won in 1998 and 2004 again. In which ways has the event changed over the past 38 years?
Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Of course since the 1970s the circuit has been repeatedly extended and modified, many run-off areas have been added, corners widened, in winter they always repair the tarmac at some places. But the race itself has actually changed very little since then. True, today there are more contenders, but the 24-Hour-Race continues to be a popular festival for the fans and offers 'hands-on' motorsport."