As promised before, the second part of our interview with Stephan Schott got a little bit more technical. We wanted to know what it takes to keep a car running in such extreme conditions, like those at the Rally Dakar or the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge!
The cars you use are very special; how different are your repairs compared to those for regular cars?
You cannot compare them, the cars we drive are unique, and most parts in them are prototypes.
That’s interesting! The cars look definitely unique! And, how extensive is the maintenance between sections during a rally?
Usually, after every section! Meaning that every night, when we arrive at the bivouac, three mechanics and one race engineer take care of the car. They read out data from different sensors and inspect the car thoroughly to determine what needs to be fixed. That also includes, for example, checking out temperature profiles throughout the race and looking for abnormal temperatures as well as loss of power or data inputs.
We hear a lot about the wear and tear of parts during rallies. What are the usual car parts that need to be fixed or exchanged?
After reading the data, the mechanics usually change out the wheels and the brake discs and pads. They also check the drive shafts to see if there are any leaks like oil or water. And of course, there is more! For example, inspecting the hydraulics, the turbocharger, the axles, the shock absorbers, and much more!
In races like the Rally Dakar, they even have to exchange the gearbox after 5,000km. There we have one rest day. On that day, they will take the entire car apart and rebuild it from scratch!
That is incredible! These are very extensive repairs! It just shows how harsh the driving conditions must be! How much time do you usually have to perform them?
If there is no major damage during the day, a normal service takes about 2-3 hours per day.
Are you using videoscopes for inspections in these stages?
Videoscopes are mainly used for inspecting the gearbox and the engine to find out if any parts are worn out or if there are any irregularities.
And, how do you handle the repairs during marathon stages? How do you prepare the drivers for these stages?
All drivers and copilots have to do training sessions before the Dakar in the workshop of X Raid.
That is because, during a marathon stage, we have to be able to do many repairs on our own. We need to be able to exchange the complete driveshaft and the complete A-arms, the brakes, and the prop shaft. All drivers and copilots also need to be able to detect failures of the engine by going through the data of all sensors.
We need to know how to change all belts, the water pump, and the starter for the engine. That includes even the turbocharger and the engine injectors or the rails for the diesel.
It is all necessary because you are not allowed to get any help from anyone outside the race during a marathon stage. Only participants can touch the cars during the race or during a marathon stage in the makeshift bivouac.
If it is a race like Dakar, we even have a race truck in the competition. These trucks carry everything we need with them, even a gearbox so that we can change it outside in the field if necessary. In that case, it takes only about 55 minutes.