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Dakar 2009: Volkswagen tackles big challenge in 2009 Dakar.

The biggest motorsport challenge on new terrain: on 03 January 2009, the legendary Dakar Rally - after 29 editions in Africa - will be run in South America for the first time in its history. Four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 vehicles will cross the starting ramp in Buenos Aires. 15 legs will take the "Dakar" drivers through Argentina and Chile - from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back - through regions which make extreme demands on man and material. The Volkswagen team starts to this new era with the self-confidence of successfully contested rallies and fully focused on a big task.

"The team is looking forward to the event with incredibly eager anticipation. At the same time, the Dakar Rally’s debut in South America is one of the biggest challenges Volkswagen has tackled so far," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "With two wins and a second place in three events, the Race Touareg has been extremely successful this year. At the ‘Dakar’ we’ll give everything to add the greatest victory of all to this tally. Everyone in the team knows that we’re strong enough to reach this goal. Yet the sport - and particularly the Dakar Rally - always offers surprises. We will work with concentration in order to prevail against strong rivals in extremely tough conditions."

Four Race Touareg vehicles, four seasoned factory teams

The four Volkswagen factory duos possess a wealth of experience: the two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (Spain) will be navigated by the renowned cross-country rally co-driver Michel Périn (France). Giniel de Villiers (South Africa), with four overall wins the most successful Volkswagen driver in cross-country rally sport, relies on instructions by his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Karlshof). Mark Miller (USA) and his "co" Ralph Pitchford (South Africa) in June celebrated the one-two win together with their team-mates de Villiers/von Zitzewitz as the runners-up at the Rallye dos Sertões in Brazil. A German duo is formed by Dieter Depping (Wedemark) and co-driver Timo Gottschalk (Berlin) - at their debut in the Race Touareg they celebrated third place at the Central Europe Rally.

New challenges day by day: 9,000 km through Argentina and Chile

The 2009 "Dakar" offers new challenges galore: the 9,000 kilometres through Argentina and Chile are new terrain not only for the drivers and co-drivers. Technicians and engineers, as well, will be put to the test regarding vehicle set-up and maintenance in view of constantly changing landscapes along the rally route. And the team’s logisticians have to deliver top performances before and during the "Dakar" too. Twice during the rally a crossing of the Andes is on the agenda. Aside from the extreme altitude of over 4,000 metres, a mix of different types of terrain is awaiting the teams. In addition to hard and stony sections at the beginning of the rally, the route includes a passage through the extremely dry Atacama desert.

2009 Dakar Rally - technology

When the Dakar Rally starts to its maiden round in South America in the new year (03-18 January 2009) the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 will prove its purpose and character. The 280-hp cross-country rally prototype has been designed to perfectly master one of the "Dakar" principles: "Expect the Unexpected". Hard, stony and thus difficult-to-drive-on ground, soft sand in the "Atacama", the world’s driest desert with the highest dune fields on earth, as well as extreme passages through water - all this is awaiting the high-tech 4 x 4 vehicle during the toughest test motorsport has to offer: a test of reliability in order to reach the finish at the end of 15 tough legs leading across a roughly 9,000-km distance - and a test of performance capability in order to master these conditions as the best overall contender.

"One of the big challenges for us, the engineers and technicians, in cross-country rally sport is that the components have to function in different climatic conditions and on extremely varied ground," says Andreas Lautner, Technical Director of Volkswagen Motorsport. "40 degrees Celsius, for example on desert sections, or temperatures around zero during the crossing of the Andes are equally typical in this sport - particularly at the ‘Dakar’. And all this combined with extreme mechanical loads acting on the components. In addition, the ‘Dakar’ is the complete opposite of disciplines like Formula 1. Instead of operating in clinically clean conditions, the mechanics have to keep the vehicles in perfect shape even when the cars are extremely dirty. And they have to do so across a distance of a Formula 1 season condensed into the space of two weeks. This is an ideal discipline to prove technical competence."

Uncompromising prototype for toughest off-road rally competitions

Numerous technical solutions make Volkswagen’s "Dakar" prototype an uncompromising rally vehicle. The prototype’s high-tech body, optimised for aerodynamic efficiency on the one hand and assuring good driver visibility on the other, primarily consists of carbon fibre-reinforced plastics. The actual body tips the scales at just about 50 kilograms. The basic shape of the "RT2" was developed by the Volkswagen Design Studio Braunschweig as early as in 2005 and subsequently refined in wind tunnel tests as well by means of complex CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) calculations. But the body of the Race Touareg 2 has since been subjected to various detailed improvements. The most recent one: in 2009, for example, the drivers will enjoy an even flatter engine bonnet at the "Dakar" - which gives them better visibility of the permanently changing track conditions.

The Race Touareg’s backbone is an extremely torsion-resistant space frame to which the suspension components - double wishbones at the front and rear axles - are mounted. They, too, have reached the next evolutionary step in the direct development for the 2009 Dakar Rally. Modifications to rear suspension kinematics reduce the car’s roll movement and thus enable more precise handling. The space frame cage made of aviation steel has to absorb the enormous forces occurring on special stages and represents a safety aspect for the drivers in case of an accident.

Innovative TDI turbo diesel technology as a success factor for the "Dakar"

The Volkswagen Race Touareg 2’s "heart and soul" is its 2.5-litre TDI turbo diesel engine. "This powerplant offers a number of advantages for use in cross-country rally racing," says Donatus Wichelhaus, Head of Engine Development at Volkswagen Motorsport. "The engine develops very good torque, which has a positive effect particularly on sandy ground. Due to its lower consumption a diesel-powered vehicle can start to a long leg with a smaller amount of fuel in the tank. The weight advantage compared to a car with a spark-injection engine can thus be as much as 200 kilograms."
An engine concept for the "Dakar" prototypes is developed within strictly defined rules. For example, the regulations of the desert classic prescribe a 38-millimetre air restrictor limiting the air aspirated by the engines. According to the Volkswagen engineers the engine delivers a power output of 280 hp and develops over 600 Nm of torque. The innovative twin turbocharger has a major share in this: the two-stage supercharging results in better driveability of the engine and extends the usable torque range.

During intensive tests reliability was a focal area

While preparing for the 2009 Dakar Rally a further improvement of reliability and optimised quality inspections and control were major development objectives for the Volkswagen engineers. Therefore, during intensive tests in Morocco - in addition to performance-relevant tests - endurance tests were the key items on the agenda. Besides extensive component tests, the interaction with a general innovation for the upcoming "Dakar" was tested: for the first time, the newly developed "all terrain" tyres by Volkswagen’s partner BF Goodrich will be fitted. The new tyres, on the one hand, exhibit better performance on sand and, on the other, are even more resistant due to a modified design. The tyres provide the four-wheel prototype’s contact to the ground - a modified vehicle set-up in line with these new properties was worked out, among others, during the several weeks of testing in Morocco.

The damper units, as well, play a major role in the vehicle’s handling. The suspension travel of the cross-country rally prototypes of the "Dakar" class T1, into which the Race Touareg falls, is limited to 25 centimetres by the regulations. In 2009 a revised hydraulics system for the dampers, which were developed in collaboration with technology partner ZF Sachs Race Engineering, will be used. The development objectives were to improve the jumping properties of the Race Touareg.

2008/11/10 | 19:17 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Volkswagen Motorsport

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