With the start of the 2013 Dakar Rally just days away the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team took a trip to the Peruvian Desert to finalise their preparations for the race. This was the first opportunity for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz to test their specially designed Buggy over the unforgiving desert conditions that typify the Dakar Rally.
The Qatar Red Bull Rally Team does not have the luxury of time with their entry to the 2013 Dakar confirmed as recently as August. In the following five-month period the team have put their foot down hard against the accelerator to ensure they are as well prepared as possible for the challenges of the Dakar.
Nasser and Carlos, along with their co-drivers Lucas Cruz and Timo Gottschalk, pushed the Buggy to the absolute limit over the Peruvian sands to help improve their understanding of the machine. After each lap of the dunes was completed the drivers, co-pilots and mechanics held a briefing to discuss what adjustments needed to be made to the Buggy. The suspension was altered, tyre pressure decreased and the team’s tactical approach were all debated during an intense session of testing.
What was also evident from everyone involved in the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team was the excitement over the prospect of once again tackling the unique tests of the Dakar. Nasser who had the idea to create the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team could not hide his smile as chatted with journalists. Carlos spoke with pride about his return to the Dakar after missing out last year. Co-drivers Lucas and Timo have both won the Dakar before and could be seen talking about their chances of chasing another title. The mechanics were also sharing a joke as they got down and dirty in the desert.
The Dakar has arrived once again and the biggest challenges for the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team are just around the next corner.
Carlos Sainz: “It was essential that we had the chance to test this Buggy in these desert conditions before the race starts on Saturday. We are still learning so much about this vehicle every time we jump in. This is normal because as a driver you want to be constantly learning but this process is increased because of the short period of time we have had to work with the Buggy.
“We have used the test today to try and gets things correct and working as they should. I don’t expect this learning process to stop today, we will still be learning during everyday of the Dakar. My aim is to just keep the Buggy pushing forward and make sure we don’t stop until we reach the finish line. This Buggy has great potential and there are lots of innovations that have been incorporated into the design. For example, there is a pressure valve on the dashboard that allows us to control the amount of air in the tyres that we tested.”
Timo Gottschalk (co-driver of Carlos Sainz): “I’m enjoying the experience of testing alongside Carlos but now I’m ready to get started on our first proper race together. It’s not just my relationship with Carlos that is new, the car is new and the team is new. There are a lot of things that we must adapt to very quickly.
“It’s great for me personally to be back involved in the Dakar after missing out on a ride last year. The testing today has been very successful, we had the chance to see how the Buggy reacts to desert conditions for the first time and the results were encouraging.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “I’m so happy to have arrived at this stage with the support of Qatar and Red Bull. Everything is very new and I’m happy to have this chance to show the Dakar fans that Carlos and myself are here and we are ready to race. We want as many people to see this car in action as possible so for that reason our first aim is to get both cars to the finish line.
“Ever since my first trip to the Dakar here in South America it was obvious to me how much the local people love our sport. I have had so much support here and now to bring my new team to Peru feels great. We started this project with a blank sheet of paper in August and to be here now with a car ready to compete in the Dakar is already a great achievement. Five months is not a lot of time to put together a team but we were lucky that everyone we called was very enthusiastic to get involved. That is what the Dakar does, it gets inside your blood and you will do anything you can to be part of this epic race.”
Lucas Cruz (co-driver of Nasser Al-Attiyah): “After winning the Dakar in a Volkswagen and then racing with Nasser in a Hummer last year this is another new experience for me. I think that this Buggy is a much better vehicle than the Hummer we rode 12 months ago. There is not a great difference in navigating the Buggy compared with the Hummer, the big difference is the weight of the car. Our Buggy is so much lighter than the Hummer and this improves many aspects of the driving. During the testing today I was impressed with the suspension of the Buggy, that is going to help us out a lot because the Dakar route is always a very bumpy ride.”