Q & A with Volkswagen's Lutz Meyer
Q. What is the golden rule for a logistician at the Dakar Rally?
Lutz Meyer - Volkswagen's logistics expert: Very clearly, you always need to have a plan B in the back of your mind. This is particularly important if anything unforeseen should happen. But even in advance it helps to constantly look for organizational alternatives because the amount of equipment and spare parts is always larger than the cargo space - so, when loading the various trucks, maximum efficiency is crucial.
Q. What makes Dakar logistics such a complex task?
LM: Normally, logistics means coordinating a material supply process in the best possible manner. At the Dakar this means arriving at the bivouacs on time with spare and wearing parts. That's why it's necessary to thoroughly do our homework in advance, every item – no matter how small – must be captured on to-do lists and then systematically ticked off. Anything we forget during our preparations can turn into a huge problem on location because we can longer make any corrections then.
Q. What does the bivouac organization look like?
LM: Before the Dakar we develop a firm plan for setting up the bivouacs. It defines the locations of the trucks, the service areas for the five Race Touareg vehicles and the tents for the engineers. Every team member is scheduled for daily tasks which, among other things, concern the set-up and tear-down of the bivouac. Everyone knows immediately what to do after we've arrived at the next town. This saves a lot of time in our day-to-day operations.
Q. To what extent do you have to improvise during a Dakar Rally?
LM: Improvisation is necessary whenever a plan doesn't work. For example, when there is insufficient space available at a service location and thus prevents us from setting up our bivouac according to our normal plan. In this case, we quickly re-organize to ensure that the mechanics continue having short distances while performing their service jobs. Otherwise, you lose too much time, and time is always crucial when servicing the rally vehicles.
Q. What personal traits does a Dakar logistician have to have?
LM: First of all, you've got to understand people's needs because there are many, many things you'd like to do for your colleagues so that they can do a perfect job. But you also need nerves of steel plus the ability to plan far in advance, which requires attention to detail. But, more than anything, you should be able to continue learning in order to improve year by year. We heeded this in the past and I think our success has proved it.