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Volkswagen continued its preparations for the 2008 Dakar Rally with an eleven-day test in Tunisia. Two Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 prototypes were used during the longest test of the year. The main focus of attention for one of the powerful 285 hp prototypes was reliability during so-called long runs; set-up work on the second Race Touareg was pinpointed at optimising the suspension and brake systems.

"We covered more than a ‘Dakar’ distance during the eleven days, the Race Touareg was in action from dusk till dawn along a 300 kilometre track through the desert and ran completely without problems,” summarised Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen positively. "It wasn’t only the technical results that impressed me. I was also delighted to see how well the drivers and co-drivers and the entire team worked together. We had the same unbreakable team spirit that we saw during the 2007 Dakar Rally.”
Five driver/co-driver combinations in action on Tunisian desert tracks
All five Volkswagen drivers and their co-drivers were seen in the cockpit during the tests which were run from Ksar Ghilane in South Tunisia: The newly signed driver/co-driver duo Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk (Germany) shared the test work with team mates Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France), Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany) and also Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (Portugal/Germany) from Team Lagos.
"Every driver had the opportunity to work together with his engineer on the preferred spring and damper settings on the Race Touareg, and to test them later in a long-run on the 300 kilometre lap,” explains Kris Nissen. "For this purpose we placed particular value on the choice of the test track to ensure that the track conditions reflected those encountered on the Dakar Rally, the test track boasted not only sand and dunes but also camel grass, hard stone plateaus and fast tracks.”
"A successful test,” said pleased factory driver Carlos Sainz, who recorded five day victories during the 2007 Dakar Rally. "I didn’t only have the opportunity to fine tune my Race Touareg set-up for the forthcoming competitions, but I also particularly enjoyed the close cooperation with the other drivers and co-drivers. The test was hard work, but was nevertheless a great deal of fun.”

Volkswagen prepares for new regulations in the 2008 season
"New regulations are valid in cross country rallying from 2008 onwards,” explains Kris Nissen. "The air-restrictor will be reduced from 39 to 38 millimetres from the Dakar Rally, in addition, six-speed gearboxes are now prohibited – we now have to make do with five gears. Obviously both changes have an effect on power and torque and also the entire performance of the Race Touareg. We already ran the cars to the new regulations during this test to ensure that we are well prepared for the Dakar Rally. We also plan to compete at the forthcoming events, the Moroccan Rally at the end of September and the UAE Desert Challenge at the end of October, in the new specification.”
Moroccan Rally is next event for Volkswagen factory team

The Volkswagen factory drivers and team members only have a short break after the test. Volkswagen competes in the Moroccan Rally on 25 September with four Race Touareg prototypes. The fourth round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup starts in Zagora and finishes in Ouarzazate on 30 September. On factory team’s agenda between 28 October and 2 November is the UAE Desert Challenge and World Cup finale in the United Arab Emirates, the event also acts as dress rehearsal for the Dakar Rally which starts on 5 January in Lisbon.
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