• Jun 4, 2007
Click the photo for a high-res gallery of the Race Touareg in Baja

The Volkswagen Race Touareg had it's North American coming out party this past weekend when a pair of the People's 'Ute ran in the Baja 500. The Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford truck won it's class ahead of the second Touareg piloted by Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, with the two trucks finishing eleventh and sixteenth overall.

Perhaps more impressive was the fact the two Touaregs were the only ones among 273 vehicles in the race to go the distance without refueling. With driving force coming from a 2.5L five cylinder diesel they ran 420.11 miles on a single tank in just over ten hours. The team hasn't yet decided if they will be running the Baja 1,000 in November since they will be preparing for the 2008 Dakar Rally. There's more details after the jump.

[Source: Volkswagen]


PRESS RELEASE

03 June 2007

SUCCESSFUL NORTH AMERICA DÉBUT OF THE RACE TOUAREG


WOLFSBURG, Germany - Impressive début of the Volkswagen Race Touareg in North America: In the Baja 500 offroad classic, the factory duo of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) clinched class victory ahead of their team-mates Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany).

In the overall classification of the 273 competing vehicles, Miller/Pitchford took eleventh, and de Villiers/von Zitzewitz 16th place. Volkswagen impressed particularly with its modern TDI diesel technology as the two Race Touareg cars powered by 2.5-litre five-cylinder TDI engines were the only vehicles to complete the 420.11-mile (675.92-km) Baja 500, which is considered the world's toughest one-day rally, without a single refuelling stop.

"This was a strong showing of the Race Touareg on unusual and extremely tough terrain, and this success proves its ruggedness and reliability. Both Touaregs were running perfectly, the tyres on both vehicles were changed only once – that was all," Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen summed up the positive outcome. "The drivers and co-drivers as well as the entire team prepared themselves perfectly for this unusual task, and our special thanks go to Volkswagen of America for their outstanding support."

Race Touareg thrills and surprises fans

As early as during the tremendous parade to the Technical Scrutineering in the centre of the North Mexican town of Ensenada, the Race Touareg was the major attraction for the huge crowd of fans. This prototype, which was developed for fielding in the world famous Dakar Rally, appeared virtually compact amidst the huge Trophy Trucks and Buggies with their brawny V8 engines. After several official pre-runs of the route preceding the actual rally on 02 June, Giniel de Villiers was definitely pensive: "The track is so brutal that it will be a success just taking both Touaregs all the way to the finish." Initially, these were the sentiments of many Americans as well, but with each mile the enthusiasm for the two blue Race Touareg cars of the Volkswagen Red Bull team grew.

"It's fantastic how well our Race Touaregs were running on this tough terrain," commented Mark Miller. The American, who – with co-driver Ralph Pitchford at his side – finished this year's Dakar Rally in fourth place overall, knows what he's talking about, having contested the Baja 500 as many as ten times, with five overall Baja victories to his credit. "Of course I'm very proud being able to contest the Baja with Volkswagen and to thus demonstrate the Touareg's power and performance this way," Mark Miller added. "The fact that we achieved this success with a diesel engine that is relatively quiet but develops incredible torque and, what's more, without having to refuel even once while the U.S. vehicles had to stop for fuel two or even three times is a milestone in the long history of the Baja and proves how advanced TDI technology is."

Giniel de Villiers, runner-up in the 2006 "Dakar" in the Race Touareg, noted with surprise:
"Only on the extremely bumpy parts of the track did we have a disadvantage compared to the U.S. vehicles with their long suspension travels, as we are subject to extreme limitations in this regard on account of the Dakar regulations. Except for this aspect, we were definitely able to keep the pace and were often even faster. Due to the huge amount of dust, though, or the tight tracks, we weren't able to overtake very often. After all, we didn't want to take any unnecessary risks."

Reaching the finish after ten hours

When Miller/Pitchford and de Villiers/von Zitzewitz reached the finish in Ensenada after ten hours, they were showing obvious signs of the ordeal and the endless dust they'd been through. "It's incredible how we were shaken about over the entire distance. I can feel every fibre of my body," commented Ralph Pitchford. And Mark Miller, as well, had to admit: "That was the toughest, most brutal route I've ever driven in a Baja 500."

Consequently, the Volkswagen foursome particularly relished the celebration after reaching the finish, and patiently answered questions of the many fans and media representatives. "This Baja 500 is a huge spectacle with enormous fan support and enthusiasm. The event exceeded all my expectations. It was a great experience, a strenuous as well as a fascinating one," said Dirk von Zitzewitz in the end.

Baja history has close ties to Volkswagen

By fielding the two Race Touraregs, Volkswagen of America continued a long tradition, as the history of these rallies on the Mexican peninsula of Baja California, not far from the U.S. city of San Diego, is closely linked to Volkswagen. Volkswagen already competed in the Baja's 1967 début, and the legendary VW Buggy was guaranteed to be successful in the Bajas and became a cult car. To this day, numerous cars designed by privateers, some of them based on the Beetle, are powered by VW engines.

"During the pre-runs for this Baja 500 we even worked out new suspension set-ups, which may enable us to make further strides in the Dakar Rally, particularly in camel grass," explained Mark Miller. "Of course it would be great to also compete in the sister rally, the Baja 1000, in November. The Race Touareg has got what it takes to successfully master this long Baja as well. But at that time, of course, the preparations for the 2008 'Dakar' will take precedence."



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      What class were they in, and who else was in it with them? I'm not discounting the achievement for fuel range and durability, but whom did they actually beat???
        • 7 Years Ago
        Apparently they were the only cars in their own "International Truck" class. They beat about half of the much higher powered throphy trucks and all but one of the Class 1 vehicles. Not that bad...

        http://www.score-international.com/baja500/2001/Results.txt
          • 7 Years Ago
          Well, I'd like to know how many factory backed and pro-outfits they did beat. A good numbers of the entrants were weekend warrior types. I would also like to do this race one day. Possibly when my son is old enough.

          Problem with the bigger more powerful trucks, is that they take considerably more of a pounding. Mostly because of higher speed, more weight. A very large percentage of the trucks aren't running, or just barely limps across the finish line. If you can keep your truck under you, and don't bust the damn thing up, You could finish relatively high in the standings due to attrition alone.

          Congrats VW!! Now the Dakar should be a piece of cake.

          In Dakar configuration, the Pajero Evo may not have fared as well.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Sweet. Just for the record though, what other vehicles were in their class? 10 Hours, what was the finishing time of the 1st place truck?

      I do however, commend them for finishing the race though. Aslo having a 5 time winner was half the battle.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The only reason they won anything is because Mitsubishi Ralliart along with Pajero Evolutions didn't participate in this race. As impressive as the Race Tourages are, Pajero Evos are that much better.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The final standings were #1 Mitsubishi #2 Mitsubishi #4 Mitsubishi and no VWs in top 3, considering the big HP advantage the VW (VW put a big-ass turbodiesel engine in there) had over Pajero Evos (Pajero had a NA 4.0l) I say Mitsubishi did an excellent job on making the Pajeros solid as a rock. Even with the big HP advantage, VWs couldn't shake Mitsus of their tails, and then came the reiiability problems (just like with every other VW production/race prepped vehicle). No one prepares their vehicles like Ralliart does, best in the business.
          • 7 Years Ago
          Volkswagen was fourth and ran with the same engine. Mitsubishi was no doubt the leader but their quick "change clutch" needed a lot of changing. SCHLESSER came third in his own buggy based on Ford.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Not really. If you go by stage wins, at the 2007 Dakar it was VW 10 - Mitsubishi 0. Mitsubishi won on reliability and experience, not speed. In a 500 Mile race my money would be on VW.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I forgot to add. Ralliart is king. 8)
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree- showing up and finishing at all is an accomplishment your first time out. Next I'd like to see them better Honda though and show how well they can do in the stock compact class. Cheers
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wait till they mount the V10 TDI!!!

      Bwahahahaha!!!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Uh... the VWs were actually running the 2.5 liter inline 5 diesel in both this race and Dakar. So I have to ask, where's the big HP advantage?
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