AT THE WHEEL
Racing glory Volkswagen enjoyed a victorious year for the Race Touaregs, the first season of Formula Volkswagen and the National Rally Championships By Morné Condon Photos: Courtesy of MotorPics
olkswagen is involved in motorsport on many levels, international and national. With the high levels of publicity generated by the Dakar, the Race Touaregs receive international recognition for their achievements. In South Africa the new single-seater series, Formula Volkswagen, has been grabbing attention as lap records fall in preparation for a full national championship assault next season. The 2008 South African rally season also marked the 25th running of the annual Volkswagen Rally. Formula Volkswagen The first season of the Formula Volkswagen series in South Africa has produced an unexpected result. The Formula Volkswagen competition has seen lap record after lap record tumble at every circuit visited during its challenge season.
The general consensus amongst the 12-strong field of racers contesting this first season is that the single-seater cars used are not what they expected to compete. Instead, these are far more accomplished, and complete, open-wheel racing cars that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything available globally. “The teams have to work hard this year,” Mike Barnard of Volkswagen Racing has commented this year. “There is a great deal for them to learn and this is going to take time. “The teams which adapt the fastest and who learn the techniques for setting up these race cars will perform the best on track.” Learning how to set up the cars and what adjustments to make for the various circuits is a very steep learning curve. Small adjustments can make a massive difference on the track, affecting steering, overall handling and downforce with just a turn or two of a screwdriver or spanner.
Formula Volkswagen is off to a cracking start with race after race seeing lap records fall in the series’ début season this year
“We pretty much know what the other racers are doing,” said contestor Christiano Morgado during the Phakisa Freeway outing earlier this season. “We share setup information and often the cars are set up very similarly. “With Formula Volkswagen it really is down to the drivers and how well they can compete out on the track. Driver skill has a great deal to do with how well you perform.” As this is the first season for Formula Volkswagen competition, these 600kg cars, which provide around 162kW of power, are competing in a challenge season rather than a national championship season. The championship will begin in earnest next year with the first title-holder crowned at the end of 2009. South African Rally The BP Volkswagen rally team has won the national title for Driver and Navigator Championship for 2008, and also claimed second and third positions for both categories this year. This season is also the team’s fourth consecutive national Driver’s Championship title. Since the inception of the S2000 class, a four-wheel drive category that sees Volkswagen fielding the Polo, BP Volkswagen has claimed every title. This season it was Hergen Fekken and his navigator, Pierre Arries, who proved unbeatable, knocking defending champions (and two-time title winners) Jan Habig and Douglas Judd into second place. This was the first overall national title victory for Fekken and Arries. Enzo Kuun and navigator Guy Hodgson completed the victorious trio of BP Volkswagen S2000 Polos with their finish on the final step of the podium.
The S2000 Polo took the BP Volkswagen Team to record results in the 2008 National Rally Championships with all three podium places going to the team in the Driver, Navigator and S2000 categories
In the A5 class, the BP Volkswagen team campaigns a Volkswagen Citi piloted by André Cleenwerck with Des de Fortier in the navigator seat. The pair finished the season on a high note, adding the Class A5 title to the BP Volkswagen team’s list of victories. Cleenwerck and De Fortier won the title and replace Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin as the Class A5 champions. Zulu and Peskin switched from class A5 to class A7 this season. This sees the pair behind the wheel of a BP Volkswagen Polo, a two-wheel drive Polo rather than the four-wheel drive of the S2000 entries, and they have been hard at work to adapt to the significant changes, especially that of having far more power this season. With a second-place finish at the final event for 2008, this puts the pair in a strong position to fight on an equal footing with the other competitors in the A7 class for the 2009 season. Race Touareg Terrorism and threats to competitor safety saw the cancellation of the Dakar Rally for 2008 just one day before the event was due to start. For 2009 the Dakar Rally moves to South America and takes place from Argentina to Chile with competitors racing from ocean to ocean across the continent. The start and finish happens in Buenos Aires with the round trip taking competitors to Valparaíso in Chile. The route totals 9 000 kilometres. This distance includes 6 000 kilometres of special stages. For 2008, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) fast-tracked a new initiative that was to hit
the international motorsport scene only next year. Instead, the Dakar Series was unveiled ahead of schedule and is a selection of races that offer “the same high organisation and safety standards, strong participation and media attention as the legendary Dakar” according to the ASO. The first of these events was the Central Europe Rally which took place in April, taking competitors on a 3 000-kilometre trek across Hungary and Romania. This event saw the Race Touareg of Carlos Sainz and co-pilot Michel Perin claim the first Dakar Series win. The Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk pairing, also in a Race Touareg, crossed the line for third place. The second outing for the Race Touaregs in 2008 saw South African driver Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz compete in the Rally dos Sertoes in Brazil where they claimed a second victory for the diesel-powered Rally Touareg this season.
To sweeten the victory for the Volkswagen Touaregs even more, the team of Mark Miller and South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford claimed second place overall, just eight minutes and 10 seconds behind the leading Touareg. The Volkswagen Race Touaregs tackled round two of the Dakar Series from 9 to 14 September at the PAX Rally in Portugal. This was a particularly challenging event and for Carlos Sainz and his Race Touareg, victory proved elusive. The pair were forced into second place because of a roll during the sixth stage. Up until that point he had a commanding 31-second lead on his rival Stéphane Peterhansel. The finish line arrived two minutes and 42 seconds after the winners for Giniel de Villiers in his Race Touareg. This finish was strong enough to ensure he claimed fourth place overall in the event.
The Volkswagen Rally team and their Race Touaregs are ready to take on the 2009 Dakar Rally in South America starting from 3 January
FormuLa VoLksWagEn The first season of the Formula Volkswagen series in South Africa has produced an unexpected result. The Formula Volkswag...