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While the works drivers Robby Gordon, Juha Kankkunen, Jutta Kleinschmidt and Bruno Saby together with their co-drivers Dirk von Zitzewitz, Juha Repo, Fabrizia Pons and Michel Périn completed a question and answer session for numerous media representatives and fans and signed hundreds of autographs, the impressive convoy of competition and service vehicles prepared for the journey to Barcelona, where the world famous desert rally will start at New Year after two days of scrutineering. In addition to the driving and navigational expertise, logistics are a third important element of the competition that finishes on 16th January in the Senegalese capital city. As a result, the smallest of spare parts, the tyres, mechanics and team boss, all the material and every person must be transported more than 10,000 kilometres; every formality must be observed and a strict time schedule followed.
Superb logistical feat with advance planning
The planning and coordination of this extensive supply chain, moving over two continents for more than a fortnight, is the domain of an extremely experienced Volkswagen employee: Paco Crous, involved in motorsport since 1962, experienced his first Dakar Rally in 1983. Incredibly, the Catalonian will participate in the Desert Classic for the 18th time in January 2005. Together with other team personnel, the 59-year old Spaniard plans the deployment of more than 60 personnel for the second Dakar Rally appearance of the Race-Touareg. “Together with Team Manager Peter Utoft, a team diagram is drawn up, explains Paco Crous. “The travel itineraries, flight and hotel bookings, time schedules, loading plans and other pertinent instructions are derived from this, all of which is summarised in a handbook for each employee.”
Apparent trivialities such as the transport within Europe gains importance: How do the employees, whose vehicles have to be available for technical scrutineering, get to and from the hotel and rally centre in Barcelona without their fleet? How and when will which material be transported by the European Support Team from Germany to Spain?
Responsibility for all vehicle categories
A total of 21 vehicles from Volkswagen will start as authorised participants in the competition and service-vehicle categories of the Dakar Rally. In addition to the four Race-Touareg vehicles for the works drivers, nine production based Service-Touareg cars, one twin-axle, four three-axle and a single four-axle truck of varying construction are also included in the fleet. Two trucks are also entered in the truck category, which can provide direct help on the stages. These “knights in shining armour” require the same level of meticulous preparation as the four Race-Touareg cars, as they are nevertheless race vehicles as defined in the rally’s T4-Regulations, which follow exactly the same route as the cars and motorcycles. Klaus Leihener is responsible for the preparation and race logistics of all trucks and again drives one of the two Race-Trucks.
The transport boxes, each tailored individually to suit Volkswagen’s requirements, are loaded according to detailed equipment plans. The freight for the Race-Touareg comprises of no less than 360 pre-mounted wheels and tyres, 32 complete suspension units, 60 driveshafts, 16 propshafts, eight front and eight rear differentials and seven gearboxes. Every Service-Truck is stocked with at least 5,000 individual components. As the Race-Trucks must successfully master all the dune and pass crossings and, in the worst case, tow one of the four works drivers’ competition cars to the finish if defect, the payload of the twin-axle trucks must not be completely exceeded. Therefore, a Race-Truck only contains about 1.4 tonnes of the most important materials required for mechanical ‘first aid’. Fresh supplies are taken from the Service-Trucks at the bivouac in the evening. Volkswagen has ordered 25,000 litres of fuel from the organiser for the entire caravan, which consists solely of diesel powered four-wheel drive vehicles.
The nine Service-Touareg vehicles, specially built to transport the technicians, mechanics, and other personnel, benefit directly from the impressive basis concept of Volkswagen’s premium segment all-terrain vehicle. Based on the top-of-the-range V10 TDI, a team, lead today by Christoph Beck, had already developed a three or four-seat escort vehicle for the two ‘Dakar’ events in 2003 and 2004, which in addition to being equipped with a roll-cage, race seats, two spare-wheels, an extra fuel tank and water tank also has a roof mounted box.
Planning for the unpredictable
In addition to these 21 vehicles, two extra four-axle trucks of a sub-contractor are on stand-by for the transport of tyres, wheel rims and other large components. Additional vehicles – for instance at the start in Barcelona or in and around the bivouacs in Africa – are provided by the local Volkswagen dealer network. “Today we have the plannable part of the event behind us”, knows Paco Crous. “The critical phase begins after that, which is characterised by unexpected developments, quick decisions and improvisation. This is exactly what makes the Dakar Rally so appealing.”
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