Earlier this week, we celebrated the news that Rainer Zietlow, Carlos Fernandez and Marius Biela completed the TDI-Panamericana Challenge in world-record time, traveling nearly 16,000 miles and passing through 14 countries in under 12 days. But the team didn’t make the trip on a bicycle built for three (Editor’s note: new challenge idea?). They did it in a Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel because, in Rainer’s own words, “An endurance challenge of this magnitude requires a vehicle that can handle all different types of terrain, traffic and climate conditions." For Rainer and his team, that vehicle could only be the Touareg TDI.
When Rainer, Carlos and Marius broke the world record, a chorus of cheers went up, That was followed by a very loud "ahem," which was the sound of their VW Touareg clearing its throat, as if to say, "Little credit over here?" Part of what makes Rainer’s team so successful is that they plan everything carefully and meticulously, including their choice of vehicle. The team selected the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel in part for its 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 TDI® Clean Diesel engine and 4MOTION® all wheel drive (AWD) system.
The team was aware that the Pan-American Highway is not only the world’s longest road; in places, it’s also one of the roughest. To handle the variety of conditions they’d be facing, Rainer’s Touareg was modified to include satellite technology for live communication in remote areas, the largest tires that fit the Touareg to better address bumpy roads throughout South America and an additional 300-liter fuel tank to extend the distance the vehicle could travel between refueling.
Every time the team faced a particularly taxing aspect of the challenge, the Touareg did what it does: it got them through it and kept them going. The team had their first fuel stop in Lima, Peru, where they refueled the Touareg’s tank as well as their additional 300-liter fuel tank with the help of an electric pump.
The trip had more than its share of poor road conditions, but during the Guatemala portion of the journey, Rainer reported that “the Touareg dropped into a foot-deep pothole in the middle of the night, but fortunately, it handled this perfectly.” The team drove all the way from the world’s southernmost city to the Volkswagen factory in Mexico before changing the oil, fuel, air filter, brakes and rotors. They also decided to examine the Touareg’s undercarriage and suspension in the event that a South American sinkhole had managed to damage their vehicle. As it turned out, everything was in top condition. In Rainer’s words, “We were assured once again that the Touareg TDI was the right vehicle for the Panamericana Challenge.”