Volkswagen masters Baja 1000
At the maiden race of the Baja Race Touareg TDI Volkswagen mastered the extreme rigours of the famous Baja 1000 straight away. After more than 1,000 kilometres through the rough terrain of the Mexican peninsula California the drivers, Mark Miller
and Ryan Arciero (both USA), safely brought the newly developed prototype home to the finish in Ensenada. For the first time in the 41-year history of American off-road racing a vehicle with innovative Clean Diesel technology thus successfully contested the demanding Baja 1000 in the fiercely competitive top class of the high-performance Trophy Trucks.
"Our aim for our first Baja 1000 was to finish the event with our all new Touareg TDI – and we managed to do that. That's why we're really satisfied,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "It was the toughest Baja I've ever driven, the track simply was mercilessly rough,” commented Mark Miller, a multiple Baja winner, after arriving at the finish early Saturday morning (22 November). "At our very first running we immediately showed that the Touareg and the clean TDI technology are a powerful package.”
In the field of the 26 Trophy Trucks that started to the rally Volkswagen finished 13th; altogether, 369 participants from 24 countries contested the Baja 1000 in the various car, motorcycle and quad classes. Overall winners in the car category were the Americans Roger Norman/Larry Roeseler.
Defective seal causes major time loss
The Touareg TDI, which is powered by a 550-hp 5.5l V12 diesel engine from the Volkswagen Group, was running almost perfectly across the entire distance. Merely a defective seal on the gearbox caused a loss of time at an early stage and, subsequently, even required the gearbox to be exchanged. "Ultimately, a simple seal had an enormous effect with a big loss of time.
This defect surprised us because it had never occurred before,” said Don Tebbe, Project Manager for the Arciero Miller Racing (AMR) team which, in close collaboration with Volkswagen Motorsport, is responsible for the development and fielding of the Baja Touareg. "Shortly before the finish we also exchanged the rear differential just to be on the safe side. From tests we knew that this part might possibly be at the limit. Work on an improved version is already in progress,” Tebbe added.
At the start in Ensenada on Friday morning (21 November) 35-year-old Ryan Arciero from Los Angeles/California had taken the wheel, navigated by Benny Metcalf jr. (32) from San Clemente/California. "After the intensive preparation it was a good feeling to start to this unique rally with this great vehicle,” said Arciero. "The Touareg was really good to drive in this tough terrain,” added Arciero, who at nightfall turned over the wheel to 46-year-old Mark Miller from Phoenix/Arizona and co-driver Willie Valdez jr. (34) from Los Angeles/California. "I caught many slower vehicles but on the narrow trails, and particularly in the darkness, I had to go about overtaking very cautiously. I really didn't want to take any risks.”
Fielding of the Baja Race Touareg TDI in the 2009 American SCORE rally series
Just on Wednesday, two days before this unusual rally, the Baja Race Touareg TDI had been unveiled at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles by Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board for Technical Development of the Volkswagen brand. The prototype featuring a Red Bull livery is built on a space frame; it has rear-wheel drive and a chassis with extremely large suspension travel which is indispensable in this rough terrain. Visually, the vehicle impresses with a plastic body that has been enlarged to 110.5 per cent of that of the production Touareg.
"At the presentation in Los Angeles and particularly at its premiere in the toughest of all off-road rallies in America the Baja Touareg and Clean Diesel technology caused a sensation and immediately inspired enthusiasm,” said Clark Campbell, Motorsport Manager of Volkswagen of America. "Drawing on the experiences of the maiden race we'll continue improving the vehicle. We're already looking forward to participating in select rallies of the 2009 American SCORE series including the Baja 500 and, of course, the Baja 1000.”