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Dakar 2009: Logistics at Volkswagen - solving of a complex task.

Over 9,000 extreme rally kilometres across dry deserts, the highest mountain ranges of the Andes or terrain with hard scree - the 2009 Dakar Rally, which will be run through Argentina and Chile for the first time in 2009, is regarded as the biggest challenge in motorsport, not only for the four factory-fielded RaceTouareg 2 vehicles and their crews.

In addition to the sporting tests on the special stages, the entire Volkswagen team has to master a complex logistical challenge as well. Some 50 tons of spare parts, tools and equipment as well as engineers and technicians have to arrive at the respective destinations prior to the Race Touareg each day to assure effective and reliable support. This means that throughout the rally, which takes them to a different location almost every night, the service crew itself has to handle a cross-country marathon.

"Planning for the upcoming Dakar Rally started immediately after the last event. After the Dakar simply means before the Dakar," says Paco Crous, who is responsible for logistics in the Volkswagen team. "The service vehicles have to be prepared, schedules created as well as accommodations and travel routes planned. One of the big challenges of the new Dakar is the fact that the trucks are shipped as early as in November but will not be taken over by us on location before the end of December."

Debut in South America - new preparatory process for Volkswagen

After 29 previous events through Africa - most of which started in Europe - the 2009 Dakar Rally, for the first time in its history, will start in Buenos Aires and lead through Argentina and Chile in a loop that includes crossing the Andes twice. This confronts the logisticians with a new task. Before the four Race Touareg 2 vehicles move across the starting ramp on 03 January 2009 the complete fleet including equipment has to be shipped to South America.

A speciality of this event will be the fact that the MAN service trucks and other supporting team vehicles, most of which are specially prepared Volkswagen Touareg cars, are considered real rally participants. Therefore, prior to being shipped from Le Havre (France) on 25 and 26 November, they will be subjected to their own Technical Scrutineering with a subsequent parc fermé. The vehicles will not be available to the team again until 30 December, after successfully passing the additional requirements of clearing customs and other entry formalities.

This means that - compared to previous years - an important part of the logistical effort will move up as well since the loading of the service trucks, which, in addition to spare parts carry equipment and tools, must be fully completed by this time. "Later shipments of spare parts during the rally are not allowed. Therefore, everything must be perfectly planned and loaded before the trucks board the ship in Le Havre," says Lutz Meyer, Coordinator for Trucks and Equipment.

Garages and spare parts stores on wheels: Volkswagen’s service trucks

Four TGA 6x6 MAN trucks as service trucks, three 6x6 MAN equipment trucks as well as a mobile spare parts service for the service vehicles (4x4) will be used by Volkswagen at the 2009 Dakar Rally. During the two-week cross-country marathon they serve as mobile garages for the nightly routine checks performed on the four Race Touareg vehicles. In addition to parts that are subject to normal wear such as tyres, brake discs and brake linings, all essential spare parts are within ready reach because every "Dakar" involves unforeseen situations for which the Volkswagen team has prepared itself.

Besides the personal equipment of the mechanics the trucks carry a selection of special tools - providing an extremely well appointed garage that is fit for the desert. The equipment trucks also serve as spare parts stores from which the service trucks can replenish their stock. In addition, they carry everything that is needed for the bivouac - from various tents and a compact kitchen all the way to two showers for the team members.

2,200 square metres large: Volkswagen’s daily bivouac

Every night, the Volkswagen bivouac covering a minimum area of 40 x 55 metres is marked by stakes and set up at the stage finish. Then the four service and the equipment trucks form a "barricade of wagons" in an area of 2,200 square metres that is focused strictly on one objective: to enable optimum maintenance of the four Race Touareg 2 vehicles. In addition to service places prepared with jacks, jack stands, tarpaulins and sturdy tables, the crew sets up mobile offices in tents for the engineers and catering areas to feed the crews.

Electric power is supplied by a total of five generators - four of them aboard the service trucks. Together, their output amounts to 88 kilowatts of energy - enough to provide the connected load for four one-family homes. Part of this energy is directly converted into light. An illumination balloon with a diameter of 2.2 metres in the middle of the bivouac as well as four smaller optional ones mounted on the service trucks provides adequate lighting for the mechanics performing their routine night-time service work on the rally vehicles.

Starting signal for truck loading was given in September

The starting signal for the final loading of the service and equipment trucks was given following the participation in the second round of the Dakar Series in Portugal in September. Prior to this, each truck had been subjected to an extensive inspection at MAN and fitted with new tyres by Michelin for the more than 10,000-kilometre service route. Afterwards the safety systems like fire extinguishers or the trip masters for navigation prescribed by the organiser A.S.O. were checked.

The inventory of every one of the parts carriers was carefully counted and tools, spare parts as well as new components were restocked. Prior to departing for Le Havre to board the ship the equipment trucks received the medical equipment of the team physician as well as the chef’s final supplies of foodstuffs for feeding the team. The weight: the individual trucks with their cargo tip the scales at 20 to 22 tons.

2008/11/14 | 14:38 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Volkswagen

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