Dakar Rally - extreme mission in the desert

Since January 5, 2014, trucks taking part in the Dakar Rally have been driven to their limits under extreme conditions. An experienced MAN service team made sure that the racing teams arrived at their destination quickly and safely.

Dakar Rally

Hot desert air, stony tracks, boulders and dust – when MAN mechanic Hans Echter turns his thoughts to the
world´s toughest rally, he can still feel the sand from the Atacama Desert grinding between his teeth. Having already experienced the Dakar Rally several times, he still hasn´t had anywhere near enough.

Not only cars and quads take part in the Dakar Rally, but motorcycles and trucks also compete in this famous race. Between January 5 and 18, 2014, a total of around seventy MAN trucks were in action during the Dakar Rally, sixteen of these being race trucks driven by various teams. The Rally leads more than 2,700 kilometers through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Hans Echter is very familiar with the extreme conditions and the strain on the trucks. Since 2006, racing teams have been relying on him and his colleagues, Hans-Werner Nell and Josef Kreppold. Along with their service truck, these three members of MAN´s Munich-based Testing Department form part of the MAN works team.

MAN's service team works day and night to achieve success

As well as their race trucks, the racing teams also take service trucks to the Rally to keep the racing vehicles in perfect shape at all times. The mechanics in these service trucks belong to the team.

However, Messrs. Echter, Nell and Kreppold not only provide support for customers´ own MAN rally trucks, but also assist other MAN service trucks, more or less serving as a back-up. As a result, the MAN service truck reaches a payload of twelve tons, with 1,500 spare parts on board.

During the Dakar Rally, the teams´ service crews are faced with a highly challenging task. Work starts each evening after all the racing vehicles have arrived at the day´s destination. Depending on the amount and type of damage, work continues until four o´clock in the morning, the crew then taking turns to sleep during the drive to the next bivouac. Yet even during the day, the team must be wide awake and ready to respond swiftly to any technical problems encountered along the way.

Dakar Rally
Race trucks like those used by VEKA are driven to their limits – both on and off the track.

Assistance trucks as on-track aides

Mr. Echter and his team are not however allowed to provide support on the racetrack itself. For according to the rules, only drivers may offer mutual support during the Dakar Rally. But teams use the trick of entering some of their service trucks in the race. The only purpose of these so-called assistance trucks is to provide support for their own team´s faster vehicles in the event of a breakdown.

The racing truck driven by the X-raid team is, for instance, escorted by two MAN assistance trucks. This saves time – X-raid racing drivers having to wait no longer than thirty to forty minutes for a service truck, a tyre change taking four minutes. Along with five MAN race trucks, the Dutch VEKA team has twelve MAN service trucks taking part.

The fastest driver and best team win

Every minute can make a difference between victory and defeat during the Dakar Rally. This is why service is tremendously important throughout the race – the Dakar Rally cannot be won without reliable service trucks and the untiring efforts of the mechanics.

From MAN´s viewpoint, the Dakar Rally is a good opportunity to experiment and, for instance, test the performance of traction vehicles in the mountains or on particularly difficult terrain. "We have special shock absorbers," says Mr. Echter, while other truck parts have also been adapted to local conditions. "But ninety percent of the trucks are the same as vehicles from our series production," stresses Mr. Echter.

At the 2014 Rally Dakar, two MAN-drivers were amongst the top ten.

Official Dakar Rally website

Logistics feat: 1,500 spare parts - one truck

The MAN service truck was loaded two months before the Dakar Rally started and shipped to Argentina. We joined the service team while it was still packing in Germany.

Hans Echter, Hans-Werner Nell und Josef Kreppold beladen den Service-Truck für die Rallye Dakar 2014.
Hinter der ausklappbaren Seitenfront des Allrad-Lkw sortiert das Team Windschutzscheiben, Stoßdämpfer, Kupplungen, Einspritzdüsen und elektronische Bauteile in Fächer.

Hinter der ausklappbaren Seitenfront des Allrad-Lkw sortiert das Team Windschutzscheiben, Stoßdämpfer, Kupplungen, Einspritzdüsen und elektronische Bauteile in Fächer. Dadurch bekommt der Truck bis zu zwölf Tonnen Zuladung auf die Waage. .

MAN-Service-Team belädt den Lkw mit Ersatzteilen

Reifen und Bremsen, die am stärksten verschleißenden Teile bei der Dakar, haben die Rennteams selbst reichlich an Bord. Um den Rest kümmert sich das MAN-Serviceteam. Damit in der Wüste nicht viel Zeit verloren geht, müssen die Schubladen genau sortiert werden.

Josef Kreppold überprüft die Funktion des bordeigenen Stromerzeugers

Während unten weiter eingeräumt wird, überprüft Josef Kreppold die Funktion des bordeigenen Stromerzeugers. Bei der Dakar beginnt die Arbeit des Teams abends, wenn alle Rennfahrzeuge am Etappenziel angekommen sind.

MAN-Service-Team überprüft die Scheinwerfer der Bullbars

Abends wird es in der Wüste schnell stockdunkel. Die stabilen Bullbars mit zusätzlichen Scheinwerfern geben mehr Sicherheit.

MAN-Service-Team überprüft den Lkw

Zuverlässigkeit steht an allererster Stelle, der Service-Lkw darf auf keinen Fall ausfallen. Die Bedingungen vor Ort sind extrem. Deswegen wird jede Schraube noch einmal geprüft und festgezogen.

Josef Kreppold in seiner rollenden Werkstatt

Josef Kreppold in seiner rollenden Werkstatt. Von hier aus unterstützt er die MAN-Trucks während der Rallye Dakar. Denn zwischen den Anden und der Atacama-Wüste kann so einiges kaputt gehen.

Hans Echter in seinem Service-Truck

Hans Echter freut sich über einen aufgeräumten Service-Truck. Jetzt kann es für ihn wieder richtig losgehen in Südamerika. Seit 2006 ist er regelmäßig bei der Rallye Dakar dabei.

Hans-Werner Nell iam Steuer des Service-Lkw

Hans-Werner Nell in vertrauter Position. In der Wüste wird er viel Zeit hinter dem Lenkrad, an und unter Trucks verbringen.

Das MAN-Service-Team

Der Service-Truck ist gepackt und steht bereit, das Serviceteam freut sich auf ein spannendes Abenteuer in der Wüste. Wie das Rennen ausging, erfahren Sie hier.

Wie das Rennen ausging, erfahren Sie hier.

Images © Oliver Soulas

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