Audi made motorsport history in 2006 when it won the Le Mans 24 Hours with a diesel-engined car. Now sister company VW is hoping to claim another oil-burner first on an endurance classic: the 2007 Dakar rally.
Ex-rally world champions Carlos Sainz and Ari Vatanen will lead VW's bid to go one better than the second place it managed in 2006. Vatanen has won the event four times and Sainz enjoyed an impressive debut with VW in 2006, winning four stages and leading for four days. “I learned a lot of things on my first Dakar,” said 44-year-old Sainz. “Hopefully, I can now exploit this experience to the full.”
Sainz and Vatanen are part of a four-car, Red Bull-sponsored team that will use 2.5-litre Touaregs. The five-cylinder TDI engine has been fitted with a new cylinder head and develops 290bhp and more than 443lb ft of torque.
“What is required on the Dakar,” said VW motorsport director Kris Nissen, “is a mixture of speed, car control and the ability to read the lie of the land. We have achieved these targets with our squad.”
This year’s event starts in Lisbon on January 6 and covers 5400 miles, split into 15 legs - and Autocar news reporter Jon Quirk will at the start to bring you an exclusive video diary, featuring interviews with both Vatanen and Sainz, and the lowdown on the competing VW Touareg. Come back to Autocar.co.uk for all the latest from Lisbon.