- Published in Features.
At the beginning of December four Race Touareg 3 vehicles will be driven onto transport aircraft in Germany bound for Argentina. The vehicles will be split into pairs, just in case one of the planes doesn’t make it.
VW is taking no chances as it attempts to win its third Dakar rally in as many years. Every eventuality has to be taken into account. Logistics have been planned so that nothing can go wrong. VW doesn’t want anything to happen to its Race Touareg 3s after engineers have spent 12 months adapting and redeveloping the vehicles.
The South American Dakar rally stretches from Buenos Aires in Argentina, through the Andes mountains 4,000m above sea level, and the low-lying fertile lands of the Pampas before hitting the hazardous deep sand of the Atacama Desert – a gruelling 4,500km in total. And around every corner is a hazard that could end VW’s race in a split second.
Eduard Weidl, VW Motorsport’s technical director, says: “We wanted to learn from previous years and improve the car. Most of the development work was done on the cooling systems, but around 75% of the body parts are also new.”
The rules and regulations of the Dakar rally mean that performance in terms of overall speed is limited to 200km/h, so making the cars as durable and efficient as possible is the engineering team’s aim.
“If we’re really honest, we’ve reached a level where we can’t become much better because of the race regulations,” says Weidl. “We have to look at how to make the vehicles last the length of the race, maintaining the performance we have.”
The Touareg team looked at improving three areas compared to the 2010 winning vehicle: the cooling system, gearbox, and increasing power at higher altitudes.
“Cooling is really a performance issue because with high ambient temperatures the more you reduce power. If that happens in the sand you can easily get stuck,” says Weidl.
The roof was redesigned to improve the chimney effect, removing the heat that can accumulate under the carbon fibre-reinforced cladding. It also helped optimise the air supply in the process. The roof now consists of two large inlets: the front inlet supplies fresh air to the radiator while an enlarged duct located towards the rear serves the water-cooling system as well as the cooling of other components such as the rear suspension. The development over the second-generation vehicle helps Weidl and his team stay in a specific temperature range. “We always try to be below 100°C water temperature and not higher than 60°C charger temperature,” he says.