The heartbeat of the Volkswagen Motorsport team at the 2011 Dakar Rally is undoubtedly the support trucks, which ferry spare parts and dedicated mechanics from bivouac to bivouac.
The custom-built trucks, dubbed Blue Angels by the crew, are key to keeping the Touareg Race 3 cars in tip-top condition. We got under the bonnet of Blue Angel driver Axel Schröder...
With eight entries in the Dakar under your belt you are one of the most experienced Volkswagen team members. What brings you back each year?
A little bit of wanderlust is part of it, because during the cross-country rallies you travel long distances and get to see a lot of the scenery. That's very interesting. In addition, ever since I got my driving licence for lorries while serving in the German military, I've enjoyed going on truck tours and I love motorsport. I like the job of lending a helping hand as a rolling garage during a rally and to feel the energy that's part of all this. Plus, the enthusiasm of the people here in South America is like the icing on the cake.”
The mood can get quite tense in the bivouac, how do you manage to keep your head when others are losing theirs?
That's really not difficult at all. You've just got to be willing to always listen to the problems of others – then you'll be better able to handle your own problems as well. I always try and understand my guys and to accept them the way they are. The teamwork with my two co-drivers at the Dakar Rally is particularly smooth. We're a really close squad in our truck and understand each other.
Give us three good reasons why Volkswagen can clinch the Dakar title for the third time in a row?
For one, no doubt, it's the perfectly functioning team that has been working in superb harmony for years. And, of course, the Race Touareg which has become increasingly fast and reliable over the past few years. Last but not least, our drivers and co-drivers, who have learned more and more at each rally, are among the best in this sport. I'm confident that we'll be in contention for victory through to the very end. And, of course, I'm hoping that ‘my' drivers, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk, will be the ones to ultimately win. We perform the daily service for them and are therefore even closer to them than we are to the other three pairings.”