From Goiânia to Natal – "Dakar” winner Volkswagen will be "in town” at ten Brazilian locations from 23 June to 04 July 2009.
The Wolfsburg-based automobile brand that was the first manufacturer to win the legendary Dakar Rally with diesel technology in January 2009 fields three Race Touareg vehicles in the Rally dos Sertões. For the new driver/co-driver combinations, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E) as well as Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), the cross-country rally through Brazil will be a first endurance test. Volkswagen contested the "dos Sertões” in 2008 as well, in preparation for the Dakar Rally, and was successful: The duos Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), who clinched first and second place at the Rally dos Sertões, secured a historic one-two win for Volkswagen at the "Dakar” as well.
"We’re returning to Brazil with nothing but fond memories,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "The ‘Sertões’ is an outstandingly organised rally, with a demanding route, offering ideal conditions for the drivers and co-drivers to prepare themselves for the ‘Dakar.’ With Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz Senra as well as Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk on board, we’ve got two newly formed duos that can get used to racing with each other and coordinate their processes with a view towards the Dakar Rally in a tough and demanding competition. We’ll nominate the third team at a later date.”
Darling of the audience and title defender: the return of the "blue frogs”
In 2008 the two Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 vehicles caused a sensation at the Rally dos Sertões. The "Dakar” prototypes set ten out of ten possible fastest stage times and thus achieved a commanding one-two victory. The biggest gap between the two teams, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz and Miller/Pitchford, on the various stages through six of Brazil’s provinces was just 5.01 minutes, the smallest a mere second. Three times, the two vehicles sporting Red Bull blue were within less than one minute of each other.
When the 280-hp TDI diesel vehicles arrived at the finishing locations of the ten legs, they were always the talk of the town as well, and many spectators affectionately nicknamed them "blue frogs” due to their striking and uncompromisingly "off-road-suitable” shape.
Ten jungle stages: technical challenge and extreme endurance test
The ten legs of the Rally dos Sertões, typically featuring quick gravel passages across farm roads, are considered a technical challenge due to a special local characteristic: In 2008, the total route of 4,511 kilometres included about 40 passages through water – some of them up to 150 metres long. With ten special stages, the Rally dos Sertões represents the longest event for Volkswagen after the "Dakar”. Unlike at the desert classic in Argentina and Chile, the legs are run without a day of rest in between.
Navigators put to the test: detailed roadbook makes high demands on co-drivers
The Rally dos Sertões puts both the drivers and co-drivers to the test. Every night, the navigators have to analyse and prepare a detailed roadbook to supply the drivers with the right information on the stages. In 2008 the roadbooks encompassed a total of 650 pages with about 4,500 pictures. The co-drivers individually mark their roadbooks – using up to eight different colours – in order to be able to grasp the information quickly during the race.
Close collaboration with Volkswagen do Brasil
Brazil is Volkswagen’s third-largest market. Like last year, Volkswagen Motorsport’s commitment will receive major logistical support by Volkswagen do Brasil. In addition to the service trucks shipped from Germany, the required fleet vehicles for the service crew will be augmented by vehicles from Volkswagen do Brasil.