Volkswagen fields four Race Touareg cars at "Dakar" dress rehearsal in the Orient Wolfsburg (02 September 2009). Historic Silk Road and Karakuma desert: The road toward the "Dakar" title the brand strives to defend in South America at the ...
Volkswagen fields four Race Touareg cars at "Dakar" dress rehearsal in the Orient
Wolfsburg (02 September 2009). Historic Silk Road and Karakuma desert: The road toward the "Dakar" title the brand strives to defend in South America at the beginning of January leads across the Orient. Volkswagen will contest the Silk Way Rally through the Russian Republic of Tatarstan as well as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan from 05 to 13 September. The Wolfsburg-based automobile manufacturer will field four Race Touareg vehicles powered by TDI diesel engines at its dress rehearsal for the 2010 Dakar Rally for the driver/co-driver pairings Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D). For man and material, the Silk Way Rally, which starts in Kazan (RUS) and finishes in Ashgabat (TM), represents an ideal way to prepare for the Dakar Rally thanks to its varied terrain with challenging dune sections. Afterwards, from 02 to 17 January 2010, Volkswagen will tackle the title defence project -- following the historic first triumph of a diesel automobile at the off-road classic in January 2009.
"For Volkswagen as well as for all the participants, the Silk Way Rally is truly new territory," says Volkswagen Motosport Director Kris Nissen. "In view of the fact that the terrain is unknown, our daily motto - like at the Dakar Rally - is 'Expect the unexpected'. On the one hand we're in for lots of sand with off-road navigation but on the other we'll also see sections along paved roads with numerous branch-offs. This newly organised rally by the 'Dakar' organiser A.S.O. is an important element of our preparation for our big aim in January 2010: the title defence at the Dakar Rally."
2,850 timed kilometres will put the 280-hp Race Touareg to the test
The Silk Way Rally challenges the four driver/co-driver pairings with a large diversity of landscapes. Almost 2,850 timed kilometres lead the 62 cars and 21 trucks of the competition through plateaus, steppe and desert sections as well as lunar landscapes. The first, quick portion of the rally will suit the powerful 280-hp Race Touareg equally well as the final stages in the Karakuma desert in which the high torque of the TDI diesel prototypes comes into play in the high and soft dunes. The legs between Balkanabad and Darwaza as well as between Darwaza and Ashgabat where the rally finishes are even entirely on sand.
"On all nine rally days, the Silk Way Rally will be a genuine challenge," Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz is sure. "But particularly the final legs in desert sand will be a good gauge and optimal preparation for the Dakar Rally. Those prevailing against the Karakuma desert will likely be in good shape on the legs of Chile's Atacama desert as well. We're going to the Silk Way Rally perfectly prepared after two weeks of testing in Morocco."
Sahara followed by Karakuma and then Atacama: well set for the world's deserts
Volkswagen completed 7,000 kilometres of simulated special stages during tests in Morocco. In the Sahara desert, the Wolfsburg based automobile manufacturer covered one and a half times the Dakar Rally's distance without the slightest problems - and mainly in desert sand at that. "This test was a good way to become attuned to both the Silk Way Rally and the 'Dakar'," says Volkswagen factory driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, who will contest his second competition in the Race Touareg in Tatarstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. "In addition, it gave me another opportunity to coordinate my actions with my co-driver Timo Gottschalk. Now, at the Silk Way Rally, we'll have the chance to check where we stand in comparison with our team-mates."
Timo Gottschalk is looking forward to the Silk Way Rally with eager anticipation as well. "In Morocco we were already able to drive some dune passages," says the navigator who lives in Berlin. "Nasser has a very special style of driving up the dunes - and it's a highly efficient one. You can immediately tell that he feels extremely comfortable in sand. I'm eager to see if and how this will pay off on the final stages of the 'Silk Way'."
Off-road galore: co-drivers with faultless navigation are crucial
A higher proportion of off-road navigation awaits the Volkswagen co-drivers as the rally progresses. Following the initial stages of winding roads and mountain trails, the second half of the "Silk Way" will challenge the teams to find the route established by the organisers in the vast expanse of the desert and to reach the mandatory way points without any detours. "By contrast, the first part of the rally will feature sections with many branch-offs," believes Dirk von Zitzewitz, co-driver and "Dakar" winner together with driver Giniel de Villiers. "That'll roughly be the same as at the 'Dakar' - every day featuring a little bit of all the demanding stuff."
De Villiers and Miller: "Dakar" one-two winners in a rally raid again for the first time
For the "Dakar" one-two winners, who secured the first triumph of an automobile with diesel power for Volkswagen at the beginning of January 2009, the Silk Way Rally marks the first competition since January. "It's great to finally be driving a rally again," says Giniel de Villiers, who was the first South African to decide the "Dakar" in his favour. "The tests in Morocco again gave me a good feel for the Race Touareg. It was a little like coming home again. Starting with the dress rehearsal straight away is a bit exciting. But I want to show that we haven't lost any of our abilities since the 'Dakar'."
Mark Miller, too, is looking forward to his first competition since January. "Our team colleagues Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah fought a tremendous duel for victory at our one-two win in Brazil," says Miller, who will contest the event together with his co-driver Ralph Pitchford. "I recommend to the spectators to watch the 'Silk Way' on the internet or on TV - because they'd really be missing something if they didn't. Ralph and I want to show that we're completely on par with our team-mates."
Logisticians put to the test: Silk Way Rally as trial run for the "Dakar"
The entire Volkswagen team, which ensures daily maintenance of the four Race Touareg vehicles during the Silk Way Rally and has to handle a genuine cross-country marathon in the process itself, will be going through a dress rehearsal as well. As early as on 29 August the team departs for Travemunde where the service trucks and other support vehicles are shipped to Helsinki (Finland). The Volkswagen crew will then travel in a convoy to the starting location in Tatarstan, a republic of the Russian Federation. After some 4,000 kilometres on the Silk Way Rally's service route the team will depart Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, where the rally finishes, by a northbound ferry across the Caspian Sea and then in a convoy back through Russia and Finland to Helsinki. After the final trip by ship the crew is expected back on German soil in Rostock on 22 September.