NORTH AMERICAN RALLY TEAMS TORTURE-TEST THE 2008 CAYENNE TRANSSYBERIA AS THEY PREPARE TO COMPETE IN THE WORLD'S TOUGHEST RALLY Countdown to the July 11th start in Moscow has begun. ALES, FRANCE --- The cool, still air in an abandoned coal mine...
NORTH AMERICAN RALLY TEAMS TORTURE-TEST THE 2008 CAYENNE TRANSSYBERIA AS THEY PREPARE TO COMPETE IN THE WORLD'S TOUGHEST RALLY
Countdown to the July 11th start in Moscow has begun.
ALES, FRANCE --- The cool, still air in an abandoned coal mine in the south of France echoes to the sound of a Porsche V8 at full song. Every few minutes the source of the noise, a 2008 Cayenne TransSyberia test mule, blasts into view briefly, only to turn around and go roaring off again into the woods. Its sides are streaked with inky, black mud, kicked up by its huge tires while testing equipment mounted on the car gathers data that will later be analyzed by engineers from Porsche's Motorsports department in Weissach.
The point of the test is to rack up as many miles as possible over the shortest period of time. During this, Porsche's latest TransSyberia Cayenne test session, held at a rallycross track just outside of Ales, France, engineers and drivers will rack up better than 1,000 miles over the course of just four days, in an attempt to assess the car's new tires and new suspension setup while trying hard to find a "weak link" before the July 11 start of the of the world's toughest rally, the 2008 TransSyberia.
"The new BFGoodrich tires and the new shock absorbers have really improved the handling of the car," says Rod Millen, the winner of the 2007 event who is on hand for the test. While the 2007 car was fabulous throughout the event, we've found during testing that the 2008 car is a big improvement. It drives better, it's tougher and it's better-suited to the conditions."
The test location was selected, with the help of a Porsche factory driver, Romain Dumas, who lives in the Ales area when he's not driving the Porsche RS Spyder in the American Le Mans series. Dumas, who won the 12 hours of Sebring earlier this year in the RS Spyder, even managed to get some seat time in the 2008 TransSyberia Cayenne with another Sebring winner from exactly 25 years ago: Kees Nierop, driver of the Canadian TransSyberia entry and winner of the 1983 Sebring event.
"Riding with Kees was a big pleasure for sure," he says. But it was difficult sitting in the right seat. I think it's very difficult to be a co-driver; they're maybe crazier even than the drivers," Dumas added. "Me, I prefer to be in control," he smiled.
Twenty-three-year-old Ryan Millen, who will be driving the American entry, the same Cayenne his father drove to victory in last year's TransSyberia Rally, is excited coming away from the test session.
"These days have given us a good baseline for the rally, he says. The car is definitely faster than before and has more traction. But tactics during the rally are still going to be important. We're going to have to manage the vehicle and not use it up or overdrive it."
Built at Porsche's racing facility in Weissach, Germany under the watchful eye of the legendary motorsports engineer, Roland Kuessmaul, the 2008 Porsche Cayenne S TransSyberia used in the rally draws heavily on the production 2008 Cayenne S upon which it is based.
"The engine and drivetrain are identical to the one in the Cayenne S you can buy from any Porsche dealer," commented the younger Millen. "With the exception of the safety and suspension mods, some de-contenting of the interior to save weight and the underbody plates, we're racing the same car the average buyer can own," Ryan added. "It even still has its climate control system up and running. That will really help in the Gobi Desert."
"We never wanted for power with the production engine," observed Nierop. "The 4.8-litre engine has direct fuel injection, delivers 385 hp and was remarkably tractable," offered Nierop, who has driven any number of Porsches, from various 911s all the way up to the legendary Porsche 962. "I guess the bottom line is the Cayenne is just like every other Porsche - you can compete with anything they sell. And win!"
On the last day of the test session, a driveshaft mount breaks, causing a premature end to the testing program. Nierop, a Porsche racing veteran who's attended many a test session, is unfazed, as are the engineering team. "It's better that these things happen before the rally. Now they can go back and improve the car and make it even stronger," he says.
-credit: porsche motorsport