The new Volkswagen Race Touareg 3, with which Volkswagen aims to win its third successive diesel victory in the Dakar Rally in South America in January 2011, has successfully completed three weeks of extensive testing in Spain and Morocco recently and will be officially introduced to the world in Trier (Germany) on Friday (August 20). It will then make its competitive debut in the Silk Way Rally in Russia from September 11 to 18.
Both South Africans who have featured so prominently in VW’s Dakar successes in 2009 and 2010, 2009 winning driver Giniel de Villiers and 2009 runner-up co-driver Ralph Pitchford (who was also third in 2010), will again be part of the four-crew team that will contest the legendary desert rally through Argentina and Chile and will be present at the public unveiling. They will also compete with all of their Volkswagen colleagues in the Silk Way Rally.
The full team is: 2010 winners Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz of Spain, 2009 winners Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and Dirk von Zitzewitz of Germany, American Mark Miller and South African Ralph Pitchford and Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk.
“With the Race Touareg 3 we’ve completed the next step in the evolution of a technology that has already been successful,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen.
“Particularly in respect of aerodynamics we’ve reached the next level and improved the qualities of the predecessor yet again. This effort has produced a spectacular outer skin and an updated technical core. With the ‘RT3’ we’ll tackle our big aim: the hat-trick at the Dakar Rally!”
The official presentation of the Race Touareg 3 forms part of the WRC Rally Germany and will take place in the ancient (100 AD) amphitheatre of Trier. Immediately after the presentation the Race Touareg 3 will embark on the journey to Russia for the Silk Way Rally.
All four driver/co-driver combinations participated in the tests and the new Race Touareg 3 completed the extensive shake-down without any technical problems.
After initial set-up runs in Spain the Volkswagen Dakar team tested the new Race Touareg 3 in direct comparison with its predecessor in the region around Mahmid, Morocco, before moving on to the Erfoud test centre for two weeks of long runs. Temperatures reached as high as 50 degrees Centigrade in the shade and a high of 62 degrees was recorded on one particular day in the sand dunes.
De Villiers, who did the bulk of the driving, completed more than 6 500 km behind the wheel over a period of 19 days.
“It was an awesome experience and the cars came through with flying colours,” said De Villiers. “It was crazy hot! We stayed in traditional Moroccan buildings, which fortunately had air conditioning and there was also a swimming pool. The ground was so hot you had to wear your shoes at all times, even when you climbed out of the pool and walked to your chair.
“On one day the car’s air conditioning failed and we drove for about 100 km with no relief from the heat. When we got back to base I jumped into the pool with all my clothes on. I thought I was going to die.”
The long runs around Erfoud were focused on testing in conditions resembling the "Dakar” as closely as possible. A 370-kilometre loop that was covered twice per day included dunes with vegetation and a large share of off-road tracks with river bed crossings. Sections with hard soil were on the agenda as well as soft sand passages. In total, the Race Touareg 3 completed almost 10 000 km of simulated special stages. This equates to the distance of an entire Formula One season and more than twice the special-stage distance of the Dakar Rally.