Ability to succeed in traditional male dominated domains
When the 28th Dakar Rally starts on 31 December in Lisbon, one woman in particular will be in the spotlight: Jutta Kleinschmidt. The Volkswagen works driver writes “Dakar” history again and again: In 2001 she was the
first woman to win the desert classic and she remains, to this day, the only one. The other “Dakar” records held by the German living in Monaco: In 1997 she was the first woman to win a stage, in 1999 she was the first woman to lead, and in 2005, with the Volkswagen Race Touareg, she took the first ever podium finish for a diesel vehicle in the rally's 27-year history. The physicist also has high expectations for 2006: “This is my 15th Dakar. My co-driver Fabrizia Pons and I want to win, and in the Race Touareg 2 we have the car. The Volkswagen team is, in addition, perfectly prepared.”
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen believes that Jutta Kleinschmidt has a chance of winning. "She is very strong, ambitious and she lives for the sport.” Also she is the "Eve” of Volkswagen's "Dakar” project. "Jutta Kleinschmidt has been involved in the project from the very beginning at Volkswagen. Thanks to her experience, she has made an enormous contribution to the both the team's and the Race Touareg development,” expresses Kris Nissen. Her four team mates Mark Miller, Bruno Saby, Carlos Sainz and Giniel de Villiers also acknowledge and respect Jutta Kleinschmidt's commitment and strengths.
But what actually makes Jutta Kleinschmidt so strong in the desert? "She is not only very quick, she also works extremely hard and meticulously and, in doing so, is very self-critical,” explains René Verbist, who has worked closely with Jutta Kleinschmidt as car engineer in the Volkswagen team for years. "Jutta's great strength is her extensive technical knowledge. She understands the car. During the tests she notes every detail, is constantly asking questions and then analysis the data like an engineer does.”
Ability to succeed in traditional male dominated domains
The "Dakar” winner Kleinschmidt has not only harvested comprehensive technical knowledge from her 14 previous outings in the desert classic – as Physicist she has at the same time a well-founded technical education. Since her school years, Jutta Kleinschmidt has regularly established herself in traditional male domains: From finishing her exams at a boys secondary school in Freilassing in 1980, via her Physics degree in Isny, a job as engineer for a automobile manufacturer all the way to starting her desert rally career on a motorbike in 1987 – her life is characterised by an uncanny ability to assert herself.
A holiday trip stirred the German's fascination for rallying. "I arrived in motorsport through my interest in motorcycling, because I followed the Dakar Rally as holiday maker in 1987. Afterwards I knew that I wanted to drive in the competition,” reveals Jutta Kleinschmidt. In the very same year she rode her first desert rally; in 1988 she started her first Dakar Rally on a motorbike, three further starts followed.
Between 1993 and 1996, the German shifted the direction of her career increasingly from two to four-wheels, before finally choosing the car cockpit. However, she still benefits from her experiences made during the Enduro era: "You get to know the landscape much better as a motorcyclist than from behind the steering wheel. Because, as an Enduro rider, you frequently ride standing up, have a better overview and clear view in every direction as a result. You learn to ride a very clean line, which pays dividends later in a car. Thanks to navigating on a motorbike I also have a good sense of direction.”
Iron will – even during marathon towing mission
Jutta Kleinschmidt is well-known for her iron-will within the Volkswagen works team. "I had to tow her 300 kilometres out of a stage once,” remembers Race-Truck driver Klaus Leihener. "Its absolute torture for the driver of the vehicle being towed: You sit for hours on the trucks bumper, see nothing and breathe fine dust that finds its way into the cockpit – there's no escape. Anyone else would have quit. But Jutta held out – and was at the finish on time so that she could start again in the next stage.”
The Italian Fabrizia Pons, co-driver to Jutta Kleinschmidt in the Volkswagen works team since 2002, also admires her driver's strengths: "She is a real athlete. I find it unbelievable that Jutta rode right across the continent on a bicycle in the ‘Race Across America'. You don't just need to be well-trained but must also be mentally strong to accomplish such a feat.”
Extremely long cycle tours – such as a 1,500 kilometre Alp crossing – and other sporting activities form the centre of attention in the Volkswagen works driver's private life. Airspace now also belongs to Jutta Kleinschmidt's favoured play grounds since she acquired her helicopter licence. However, there was very little time for her hobbies during the "Dakar” preparations. Kleinschmidt intensified her sport programme over the last three months. "I cycle to increase stamina and regularly do weight training. I also go karting, which is good for the back muscles and concentration,” she explains. "With my trainer Jean-Jacques Rivet I train my coordination and balance on specially designed machines.”
Although Jutta Kleinschmidt starts her 15th Dakar Rally on 31 December in Lisbon, the cross country classic is by no means routine. The German's enthusiasm remains unbroken. "Cross country rallying is a fantastic cocktail of adventure, technology and racing,” she says of her fascination for the "Dakar”. "It is the challenge of the year for me, for which I have worked eleven long months.”
Press Release Volkswagen Motorsport