Carlos Sousa in fifth Race Touareg 2
Alongside the four factory cars sporting the striking Red Bull colours a Race Touareg 2 entered by Portuguese "Team Lagos” starts the Dakar Rally for the second time. Competing together, as last year, are Portuguese ace Carlos Sousa,
2003 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup Champion, and his German co-driver Andreas Schulz, "Dakar” winner in 2001 and 2003. Sousa held the overall lead on the opening two days of the 2007 "Dakar”.
Large entry list and strong competition
In the morning of 5 January five-hundred and seventy competitors roll over the start ramp, 60 more than last year. In addition to the 245 motorbikes and 100 trucks there are 205 vehicles registered in the car category. Apart from the large factory teams, numerous privateers also start and for whom just arriving in Dakar is like a victory.
"Our strongest competitor in the battle for victory is the Mitsubishi team which is unbeaten at the Dakar Rally since 2001 and which also relies on four experienced drivers again this year,” explains Kris Nissen. "However, at the final round of the World Cup in Dubai we also saw that the BMW X3 drivers are in with a shout, especially Nasser Al-Attiyah who is very good in sand. You also shouldn't underestimate Robby Gordon in the Hummer and Jean-Louis Schlesser with his Buggy.”
Extensive detail work on Volkswagen Race Touareg 2
Volkswagen further improved the Race Touareg, powered by an innovative 280 hp, 2.5-litre five-cylinder TDI diesel engine, during an intensive test and development programme. "The last ‘Dakar' showed that our performance is very good. Afterwards, the target was to specifically optimise details, purely and simply to undertake precision work,” explains Eduard Weidl, Technical Director of Volkswagen Motorsport. "An important point was also to simplify and ease work in the cockpit. The sealing of the car was improved to such an extent that hardly any dust penetrates the cockpit.
Also, a new air-conditioning system ensures that cockpit temperatures remain acceptable on extremely hot days – they still reach 50 degrees Celsius.”
Modifying the Race Touareg to suit the new regulations was one of the main points during its preparation. Rally prototypes such as the Race Touareg and the competition from Mitsubishi, BMW and the Buggies can now only be equipped with a five-speed gearbox, six gears were previously allowed. The diameter of the intake air restrictor on the Volkswagen TDI engine was also reduced from 39 to 38 millimetres. This measure should reduce the maximum speed of the top cars. "The changes to the regulations affected all the top teams in the same way,” explains Kris Nissen. "We had already defined the Dakar specification for the Race Touareg in August which allowed us to contest the Moroccan Rally and UAE Desert Challenge with the vehicle. The drivers even found the gearbox to be more comfortable as they don't have to shift gear so often.”
Kris Nissen: "Well equipped for this demanding and high-calibre sporting event”
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen: "All five Race Touareg are well prepared, the team is highly motivated, and the drivers and co-drivers have not only honed themselves for the competition in tests and rallies, but also during technical training sessions, at fitness camps and navigation weeks. We are also well equipped and are looking forward to a challenging ‘Dakar' with high-calibre competition. It's about time that it finally started.”