Newcomers with routine
Two new faces in Volkswagen's driver line-up for Dakar Rally: Dieter Depping from Wedemark and Berliner co-driver Timo Gottschalk drive a Volkswagen Race Touareg for the first time in the Dakar Rally which starts on 5 January in Lisbon and finishes
in Dakar on 20 January.
Both have a wealth of experience in classic rallying: Dieter Depping was German Rally Champion three times; co-driver Timo Gottschalk was involved in the 2005 and 2006 World Rally Championships as co-driver in the Red Bull Skoda. During the 2007 Dakar Rally they drove a Race Truck for Volkswagen together and, in doing so, collected experience in the world's most famous desert rally.
Unknown terrain is big challenge of Dakar Rally
"The change from classic rallies, like the ones driven in the World Championship for example, to cross country rally competitions like `Dakar' is very big,` explains Timo Gottschalk. "In classic rallying we drive along the stage twice beforehand and make a very detailed `prayer book' that the co-driver recites during the competition itself. Every detail of the stage is described in it, so that the driver can take the ideal line and reach the maximum speed. However, with cross country rallies we drive on completely unknown terrain and must start by finding the route based on the organisers schematic road book. While classic rallies are held on tarmac roads or hard gravel tracks, the majority of cross country rally stages run through open terrain.`
The 33-year old Berliner finds the new task very interesting: "The co-driver has much more responsibility in cross country rallying, they must not only find the correct route and scan the unknown terrain, but at the same time, also give a description of the upcoming track to the driver in the form of short, precise commands.`
Long daily stages require stamina and concentration
Another difference between classic rallies and the desert events in cross country rallying is the stage length. "In the German Rally Championship or World Rally Championship a stage is between 20 and 40 kilometres long. In cross country rallies a distance ten or twenty times longer is completed in one go.
The seventh stage of the Dakar Rally is, for example, 619 kilometres ` this is almost the combined length of two classic rallies,` explains Dieter Depping, German Rally Champion 1992, 1993 and 1994.
"This obviously affects the speed and how you drive. While you drive maximum attack over the relatively short distances in classic rallies, in cross country rallying you have to pace yourself, because you can't drive flat out over 600 kilometres along an unknown track. As a driver you have to think more tactically and go easy on your strength and concentration.`
A lot of initiative is required on these long stages. While a driver in classic rallying makes a service stop once-or-twice a day to relax, have the car inspected and new tyres fitted, Dieter Depping, Timo Gottschalk and their Volkswagen team mates are left to their own resources more often. "For example, when changing tyres in the stage there is no service crew to help. On the two marathon stages we only meet our team again on the following evening, on this day it is also our job to prepare the Race Touareg technically for the next stage.` Dieter Depping is, as mechanic, just as perfectly equipped for this task as Timo Gottschalk as vehicle technology engineer.
Interaction between driver and co-driver practiced during tests
Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk have known each other for many years, they competed together in 1998. In addition to his rally career, the 41-year old Depping was Volkswagen test driver for many years and started the Dakar in 2003 with TDI power. "Dieter is a very even-tempered person. He has enormous potential as a driver and uses it intelligently,` says Timo Gottschalk. Although they have known each other for a long time and get on extremely well together they used every opportunity to prepare meticulously for the first "Dakar` rally in a Volkswagen Race Touareg. "We spent a lot of time together in the cockpit during the tests,` explains Depping. "We concentrated intensively on the interaction between driver and co-driver, for example, when Timo gives commands, which words he uses to describe a pass through the dunes and when and how I give him feedback.`
Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk drove a Race Truck together for Volkswagen during the 2007 "Dakar`. "We've benefited enormously from the off-road experience, since we are familiar with the profile of some potential routes which we could encounter in January. Not many of the lessons learnt while driving can be implemented, because the Race Touareg as thoroughbred prototype is twice as fast as the Race Truck across open ground and handles completely different,` explains Depping.
The two are using the weeks before the start to prepare intensively. Timo Gottschalk meets with the other Volkswagen factory co-drivers to discuss possible routes based on maps and prepare the navigation. "The cooperation with the other co-drivers works extremely well, they let me share their experiences,` says the Berliner. Driver and co-driver also undertake an intensive fitness programme. "Only the people with good stamina can concentrate over the entire distance,` explains Dieter Depping. "In a rally that lasts 15 days it's important to survive the long stages stamina-wise and to make no mistakes. The "Dakar` is unforgiving.`