When the VW Race Touareg dominated Dakar

The Volkswagen Race Touareg
© David Robinson/Red Bull Content Pool

The German manufacturer bagged three wins in three years at the Dakar with this wild lump of metal.

A Touareg in name only, this thing won't be seeing the school gates or the supermarket parking lot much in its life, as this is a purpose built machine with one goal in mind: win the Dakar Rally. A feat it, and its older siblings, managed a total of 3 times before VW redirected their efforts towards the WRC (where their utter domination has continued), because why not quit while you're ahead?

No wonder the Dakar is hailed as "The toughest race on earth".

With diesel as it's combustible of choice, fed through the 2.5l engine's 5 cylinders, it produces a modest 310hp. What isn't so modest though, is the 442lb/f of torque it kicks out to all four corners, therefore rendering this machine pretty much unstoppable over sand dunes, mountains, or pretty much anything uneven. Helping the engine work at its best at the altitudes the Dakar reaches, is a turbocharger, a technology VW have pioneered when it comes to diesel powerplants, especially in passenger vehicles.

The Touareg won three editions of the Dakar Rally
The Touareg won three editions of the Dakar Rally© David Robinson/Red Bull Content Pool

3 limited slip differentials make sure that that torque finds it's way to the floor in the most effective manner, you can select which wheels will receive more power, helping it bound over rough terrain with ease. And it's not a bad choice of wheels to have at your disposal, at a size of 31in, again helping with this car's ability to bounce over whatever you can throw at it. A width of 10 inches also ensures that a large cross section of rubber is always in contact with the earth (except when you reach the crest of that sand dune!)

Draped over the frame, is a carbon and kevlar bodyshell.

Providing a soft landing when all 1750kg eventually returns to earth, are double wishbone suspension units on the front and rear axles, each with twin spring-damper elements. Each are regulation limited to have a travel of 250mm, which should be enough to absorb all but the nastiest jumps. Their construction also lends itself kindly to keeping the body supple during less demanding sections, ensuring steering response, body roll and power delivery are kept at their peak, despite the relatively high ride height of the vehicle.

Housing all of this tech, along with a couple of skilled humans, is a tubular space frame (a construction usually reserved for Le Mans and FIA GT racers), constructed of hi-tensile steel, and able to withstand almost 17 tonnes of force at any one point. Essential for protecting those two fleshy bits in the middle in the event of a rollover. Draped over this frame, is a carbon and kevlar bodyshell, meant to mirror the look of a production Touareg.

Big wheels keep on turning on the Touareg
Big wheels keep on turning on the Touareg© David Robinson/Red Bull Content Pool

Also inside, you'll find a whole host of switches, toggles and screens. From operating the built in jack, to the AC, individual shut-offs for pretty much every component, and probably the most essential element, the navigation equipment. To keep you in place during the 6000mile rally, are a custom set of body-hugging Recaros.

Providing a soft landing when all 1750kg eventually returns to earth, are double wishbone suspension units.

Behind the seats you'll find a few things to help you keep going in the event of a component failure or puncture, as there are 2 spare wheels, suspension and transmission parts, as well as the required hardware to swap these bits out. So not only are you a driver, navigator, endurance athlete, planner and resource manager, but you're also a mechanic and a technician for a highly specialised race car. No wonder the Dakar is hailed as "The toughest race on earth".

Maybe we'll see a return to Dakar from VW in the future, but with their efforts now directed at WRC, it might be a while before we see another desert swallowing monster like this one.

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