Nissen: "One of the biggest Volkswagen Motorsport successes" Volkswagen started into a new cross-country rallying era with a win: works pairing Carlos Sainz/Michel Perin (E/F) prevailed in the Central Europe Rally across Hungary and Romania, a...
Nissen: "One of the biggest Volkswagen Motorsport successes"
Volkswagen started into a new cross-country rallying era with a win: works pairing Carlos Sainz/Michel Perin (E/F) prevailed in the Central Europe Rally across Hungary and Romania, a new event held by Dakar Rally organisers A,S.O. In their rally debut as Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 drivers, Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) finished third and the fine team result was completed by the fifth place secured by Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D) with the Race Touareg entered by customer team Lagos. In the Q&A, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen talks about the arguably most enthralling event in cross-country rallying, team spirit and technical competence.
Kris Nissen, what was the nicest realisation gained in the Central Europe Rally?
Kris Nissen: "Most definitely the following three facts: the team did a fantastic job, the Volkswagen Race Touareg coped with this extreme endurance test in outstanding style - and we proved that we would have been perfectly prepared for the 2008 Dakar Rally. There, we certainly would have been a factor in the battle for the win - but unfortunately, the event was called off. We are absolutely competitive, the performance level is great - and the same applies to our result in this so-called 'Replacement Dakar'."
What does this win mean to Volkswagen Motorsport?
"Everybody at Volkswagen Motorsport is extremely motivated at all times. Still, securing three top positions by finishing first with Carlos Sainz, third with Dieter Depping and fifth with Carlos Sousa represented a massive confidence boost for the entire team, nevertheless. We have truly been invigorated for the tasks to come in the future."
How do you assess the win in the Central Europe Rally?
"Apart from the Giniel de Villiers' runner-up finish in the 2006 Dakar Rally, Carlos Sainz' triumph in this event has been our biggest success. And you mustn't forget the following fact: right from the start, we consequently pursued the goal to succeed with a car powered by an innovative TDI diesel engine. Now, the TDI technology represents the benchmark in this sport, too. We secured the win in the Central Europe Rally by prevailing against extremely competitive opponents on the track, by extraordinary driving skills and a lot of team spirit. A performance that just can't be bettered."
The figures tell their own tale: seven leg wins in the seven-leg event, overall win and two podium finishes. What was the formula for this triumph?
"To succeed in cross-country rallying, it takes much more than just pure engine power, technology-wise. Just as it is the case in the most motor-racing categories, it's about driveability, weight distribution and set-up. In addition, you have to cope with the most different conditions and terrain situations. When it comes to the reliability and mileage of individual components, for instance, it takes many years of experience - and our toughest competitors have got more than 20 years of this experience under their belts"
The team was subjected to minor structural changes. On the technical side, it was joined by Andreas Lautner - and Andreas Hainke was signed as Team Manager. How did the 'newbies' blend in?
"Correct. Andreas Lautner joined Volkswagen Motorsport this year, as Technical Director responsible for every chassis used in both our cross-country rallying and road-racing programmes. And this also applies for the new Scirocco for the Nurburgring 24-Hour Race. Andreas Lautner can rely on the experience of our Dakar project's Manager Technology, Eduard Weidl, who couldn't attend this rally due to an injury. Both Andreas Lautner and Andreas Hainke succeeded in blending in perfectly and like everybody in the team, they also made their contributions to our win."
Why is it that the success in the Central Europe Rally is particularly significant?
"In the past years, the organisers, A.S.O., made for a major media interest in the 'Dakar', such as the TV coverage in 189 countries. And their new event, the Central Europe Rally, also was covered in 160 countries. When it comes to the future, I am confident that A.S.O. and the World Automobile Association, FIA, too, will have what it takes to integrate further attractive events to keep on promoting this sport. This rally represented the start into a new cross-country rallying era."
You mentioned the higher competitiveness. Did the drivers have to take higher risks than in other cross-country rallies?
"The mix of world-class field and short special stages made for the most exciting rally we have experienced since having entered the sport, back in 2004. To succeed in the end, our drivers certainly had to take their cars and themselves to their very limits throughout the event. Due to the accidents of Mark Miller and Giniel de Villiers, we lost two of our cars, during the rally - but these incidents definitely haven't been the result of having taken too high risks. Giniel de Villiers and his co-driver, Dirk von Zitzewitz, somersaulted because of a mistake in the road-book but apart from this mistake, the drivers could rely on it, thanks to the good preparation executed by A.S.O. And thanks to the good safety features of our car, the drivers survived the incident unharmed."
How do you asses the third place secured by Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk in their rally debut with the Race Touareg?
"For me, it was anything but a surprise that Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk are a fast pairing. After all, this was the reason why we opted for selecting them as driver/co-driver combination. The only question was: do they have what it takes to cope with the pressure, in this world-class field featuring our 'Dakar' competitors? But they delivered in truly great style, in this environment. In the battle for seconds with Luc Alphand, Dieter Depping responded very confidently, pushed whenever it proved to be necessary - and kept his cool, nevertheless. And his co-driver, Timo Gottschalk, always found the proper route. A really successful debut for the pairing."