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New drivers and optimised technology in the VW Race Touareg.

Tough tests through deep sand, over treacherous sections covered with camel grass and along classic rally routes: After seven days of testing under gruelling conditions, the Volkswagen works team pushed further ahead with preparations for the Dakar Rally (6 to 21 January).

The tests with three Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 were conducted by works pilot Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) - who this season has won the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup rounds of Transiberico and Morocco co-driven by Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz - as well as Matthias Kahle from Germany, American Mark Miller, Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi and Finland’s rally legend Ari Vatanen.

Volkswagen field-tested modified components for the engine, transmission and suspension of the Race Touareg rally prototype, which is powered by a 275 hp diesel-TDI, five-cylinder engine with a 2.5-litre capacity. "Each of our three cars underwent a different test schedule, which we conducted successfully and without problems," Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen positively concluded. "We tested these modifications on off-road sections, in camel grass and dunes and also on traditional rally stages. Tunisia’s terrain is perfectly suited for this. The extreme heat with temperatures reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius gave us crucial feedback as to the reliability of the parts we used - whereas at the ‘Dakar’ they won’t have to endure such high temperatures. In conjunction with our extensive technical tests we also had the opportunity to observe the other drivers and co-drivers."

After undergoing his first tests for Volkswagen at the end of April in Tunisia and contesting his first rally for the team at the Rally Transiberico mid-May, six-time German Rally Champion Matthias Kahle took the wheel of a Race Touareg for the third time.

Mark Miller - who contested both the Dakar in 2006 for Volkswagen and last weekend’s Pikes Peak hill climb race in the US state of Colorado with a standard Touareg V10 - contributes to the tests with his experience in a Race Touareg.

For Thierry Magnaldi and Ari Vatanen, however, the team and vehicle were totally new. At the 2006 Dakar, Magnaldi drove a Schlesser-Ford, Vatanen has won the desert classic four times. "The drivers were impressed with the Race Touareg and the professional environment at Volkswagen," said Kris Nissen. "Thierry Magnaldi immediately came to grips with the car and Ari’s performance also looked very promising."

In addition to the new drivers, two new co-drivers joined the team for the first time. Ralph Pitchford from South Africa teamed up with Mark Miller. Co-driving Matthias Kahle was Australian Lee Palmer.

2006/07/07 I 20:38 CET I Editor:

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