DAKAR 2010, PART THREE: ENGINEERING EFFICIENCY
When the Dakar Rally kicks off on 01 January 2010 with the ceremonial start in Buenos Aires, the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 will move across the starting ramp with detailed improvements.
TEXT: Volkswagen Motorsport Media; IMAGES: Motorpics.
Last year’s winning vehicle has been designed to master any type of terrain at racing speed: The world’s hottest desert? – Awe-inspiring altitudes at two crossings of the Andes? High-speed stretches across gravel? To tackle these challenges, the engineers from Volkswagen subjected the roughly 300hp Dakar prototype with a TDI diesel power-plant to continuous further development. “Expect the unexpected” is one of the Dakar’s principles. The Race Touareg is ready to accomplish this feat.
“The Dakar Rally is an unrelenting motorsport cross-country marathon at which reliability is of paramount importance,” says Kris Nissen, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. “The Dakar
equates to the distance of an entire Formula 1 season. During the rally the prototypes have to handle extreme mechanical loads, highly varied terrain and major temperature differences.”
The Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile is the world’s toughest motorsport cross-country marathon. Every day, quick gravel stretches alternate several times with deep sand. As well as undulating, twisty sections with narrow trails, crossings of flat, wide lowland plains are on the agenda. The two crossings of the Andes when the teams cross the borders between Argentina and Chile involve altitudes of up to 4 700m above sea level and pose particular challenges. In all of these conditions Volkswagen, as the winning squad of the 2009 Dakar, will be able to draw on valuable experience in 2010. For example, a sophisticated high-altitude application for the engine electronics was already developed before the end of the year. It limits power output and performance losses due to the lower oxygen content at higher altitudes despite the required interventions.
Maintenance of the vehicles in the bivouacs is another important aspect of this multi-faceted motorsport category. The service crew itself has to complete a daily marathon run to
guarantee perfect service at the various stage destinations in Argentina and Chile – and, what is more, in the sometimes blazing heat and on the extremely dirty vehicles.
To be perfectly prepared for the excruciating demands of the Dakar, Volkswagen subjects all of the vehicle components of the Race Touareg to in-depth tests during their development cycles. Only parts that have completed entire Dakar distances – and more – in testing operations without any problems receive the green light to be used in the rally. Even for the smallest detailed solutions a use in the most important competition of the year would be out of the question without prior endurance tests. After the exploit in 2009 Volkswagen meticulously prepared for the title defence project in January 2010. Three Race Touareg vehicles completed tests in competitive conditions at the Rally dos Sertoes in Brazil, and four of the prototypes from Wolfsburg at the Silk Way Rally through Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, each covering some 4 500km of special stages, and successfully in both cases. In addition, at a test in Morocco one and a half of the Dakar distance was reeled off in long runs without any significant defects.
The prototypes from Wolfsburg for the 2010 Dakar are based on the basic concept of the Race Touareg 2 that made its competition debut in 2005 and has been improved step by
step ever since. Thanks to the long development cycles that are typical in cross-country rally racing the current RT2 embodies the experience of five years of competing in rally
raids. While, for example, in Formula 1 up to three new chassis are developed per season, with components being designed for 300 and more racing kilometres, the development cycles for Dakar components are clearly longer.
Not counting the TDI engine, the Race Touareg consists of some 5 000 individual components. Every single one of them is subjected to detailed tests and inspections before it is installed or loaded for shipping as a scheduled exchange or spare part. Volkswagen has developed a system of unrelenting quality checks for this purpose. Both purchased and in-house produced parts are non-destructively examined for manufacturing defects using special procedures; in addition, samples of each series are subjected to extremely tough
loading tests. Each individual assembly component is electronically catalogued and its service life recorded. On location at the Dakar barcode scanners provide a constant
overview of the mobile “warehouse” on board the service trucks carrying the spare parts and indicate scheduled component exchanges. All of this serves just one single purpose: to face the “unexpected” of the Dakar with optimum preparation.
For the year 2010, the Race Touareg features some detailed improvements. To achieve them, the engineers did not focus on performance leaps but on the durability of the individual components. For example, component life in the area of the gearbox was improved and the voltage supply of the onboard network stabilized even more than before for use in extreme conditions. In addition, further optimizations were achieved with brake cooling for longer component life as well as with respect to the service life of the intercooler.
In collaboration with tyre partner BFGoodrich, the “All Terrain” tyre was further improved. This basic tyre which is also used by competitors – such as X-raid-BMW – now exhibits a
better grip level on loose gravel. In addition, the tyre carcass and tread were optimized yet again.