The ''Dakar'' as professional sport
Extreme heat, the toughest tracks and dizzying heights: The Dakar Rally, held between the 3 and 18 January in Argentina and Chile for the first time, demands maximum performance from every participant. Even higher temperatures than in
Africa, the former venue of the "Dakar”, await the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 teams during the South American summer.
Furthermore, the drivers are exposed to the thinnest air as they cross the towering Andes twice, drive through the Atacama Desert one of the world's driest regions and must stomach the hardest knocks on the cross-country tracks. Whoever wants to master this challenge must be in peak physical form. For this reason, the Volkswagen team prepared itself just as professionally as meticulously and varied for the marathon.
"The Dakar Rally has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with normal driving,” clarifies Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "It is professional sport at the highest level.” A mere glimpse at the pulse monitor confirms this: During the long exposure to constant strain in the cockpit pulse rates of 140 to 160 beats per minute appear – comparable with the values seen by professional footballers. For this reason each driver's personal fitness training lasts up to five hours daily! In addition to stamina, intensive weight training is targeted in order, for example, to be able to manhandle the 30 kilogram spare wheel quickly in the event of a puncture.
Healthcare is important factor in South America
While the four Volkswagen Race Touareg teams prepared at a special training camp in the Swiss Alps for the extremely low air-pressure and the correspondingly low oxygen content encountered at altitudes of up to 4,700 metres above sea level, there is hardly any effective prescription for the stress generated by temperatures way above the 40 degree Celsius mark.
"To stay highly concentrated in these high temperatures and with this physical effort for up to eight hours a day requires impeccable fitness,” says Volkswagen team physician Dr Markus Preuth. However, the physician also knows: "Our rally drivers are tough cookies. If need be they grit their teeth to reach their objectives.”
Following the intense physical preparation over the previous months the healthcare in South America also ensures that the drivers always balance their fluid intake and eat correctly. For this reason the Volkswagen team also has a cook who tends to the drivers and co-drivers special needs. A unique personal catering service is available to quell the drivers hunger and thirst during the stages: The co-drivers "feed” their chauffeurs during the stage at race pace with energy bars, power gels and similar nutritional resources.