Podcast: Mark Miller and Ralph Pitchford

15. Dezember 2006

Wie versprochen hier die Interviews mit Mark Miller und Ralph Pitchford als Podcast.

Thank you in advance for transcription or summary. 🙂

Update: Diskussion with Mark Miller on race-dezert.com Thanks to Klaus Rasch.

Mark Miller und Ralph Pitchford

Update: Thank you Craig for transcripting the interview with Mark Miller: 🙂

Q: What is your target for Dakar this year?

MM: My target is to win the Dakar Rally in 2007.

Q: How much has the VW Race Turag 2 improved in the last months, how was the testing?

MM: My last test in Tunisia just a week ago was unbelievable. I am really so happy, I have been smiling every time I even think of it, it makes me happier. The car goes, its faster, the engine is better, the suspension is better, the breaks are better, everything is better about the car. It is just a joy, it is really really happy and nice to drive the car.

Q: What are the positive sides of the VW team? The strong sides?

MM: Well, the strong point of the VW team, is it is multi-faceted. We have World Rally Champions, we have a Baja Champion, every type of diverse driver. So, that I think is very positive. And the team is much stronger this year, we have more experience. I think every year you go you learn how to make better decisions and all around we are going to be a better team, there is no question.

Q: What can you tell about the competitors? How strong will be the competitors in Dakar Rally??

MM: The 2007 Dakar will be THE Dakar to win. It is the strongest, the highest level of competition ever I think, and if there were one to say that you won, this would be it. All of the different factory teams, every strong driver has a strong car, all of the navigators are the best navigators at the event, so if there was one that you wanted to put your name on top of this is it. And we hope at a minimum it is VW, and hopefully it is me.

Q: This year you have a new co-driver, Ralph Pitchford, how long have you known him? Why did you choose him?

MM: I met Ralph when I was a KTM factory rider at the Atlas Rally in 1998. He was a mechanic for Alphi Cox at the time and he helped me quite a bit. I realized immediately that he has a good understanding of the Rally Raids. And then I have seen him at the ISDE on the motorcycles. I have seen him at the Dakar and over the years I have become friends with him. He was a navigator for the works BMW team, so his experience level is quite high, and when it was time to throw the cards around on the team and to mix things up to try to improve the team we had to find some one for me to navigate and Ralph was the obvious choice for me. He speaks English and he is an ex motorcycle racer it is an easy language in the car for us.

Q: How did you prepare for this Dakar? And how will you prepare in the next months?

MM: Really I have been in lock down training for the last three months, ever since the Baja 500 was over and accelerated that in August. So between all of the testing and training five days a week at Athletes Performance, the same guys that train the German National Soccer Team. I have a really extensive physical fitness program and I am riding enduro and I am just really focused. I am the most focused I have ever been on any goal. So yeah, I feel very very confident going in to this. The test in Tunisia last week just made that confidence that much stronger, it was great.

Q: Talking about the Baja in the States, what is the difference between the Baja and the Dakar Rally

MM: Baja is a sprint race. It is one day, whether it is the Baja 500 or the Baja 1000, it is twelve or twenty hours. But of course it is sixteen days in (Dakar). So the things you learn in Baja, Things like you have to have patience to finish and these kinds of things are even more important for the Dakar and you really have to manage your equipment and manage the personnel. You can’t have the mechanics working on you car all night every night and it has to be a consideration when you are in the middle of the stage, taking it easier on the car sometimes to save the big picture of everybody. All of those things are critical and so I think there is a lot of crossover in that, but the Dakar is fifteen times more difficult than the Baja.

Q: Do you already know something about the route for this year’s Dakar?

MM: Yeah, I mean, I look on the internet, and I have heard some things about the route, it looks quite favorable. I like the off road and I like the dunes and the things where navigation and really being smart becomes a more important factor, and it looks like this year it will be that way, so it makes me more confidant that my package is more suitable for this years Dakar than in the past.

Q: Is there any place, any leg of the Dakar that you like most, where you have special memories?

MM: You know, I like the area down around Zurat because it always seems to be the first intense day and it is always the day the rally starts. Everyone seems to be fighting in the first six days for minuets and then you get to Zurat and then everyone forgets because then you are fighting for hours. So I think that when you become more mature you realize that the race doesn’t start until later in the Dakar. And so for me I always look forward to getting down into there . I like staying in the tent instead of the hotel and I like it to be rough and difficult and hot and the more physically demanding the better and the more it plays to my strength. So I hope it is the hardest Dakar ever.

Q: So the hardness of this rally, the strength, this is the fascination for you?

MM: Yeah! Because it is the most difficult thing to prepare for. The harder it is the more difficult it is, then you know the guys who are thinking it is only, you are the fastest driver or whatever, your thoughts are the best car, um it has to be a combination of those things. So, you have to be well rounded. The more difficult it is, the more important it is that you are good in all aspects and not just great in one particular aspect. And so for me, maybe I am not the greatest driver of all time, but I think I am a really a good driver and I am good in all of these areas and that combination is I think why I am here on the works team at VW.

Q: Coming back to the preparation, what was the impression in the test drive before?

MM: Every test I have been to has been better. And that means we started in Morocco, I was in Chateau las Tours in France for a week and then into Tunisia. In every test the car was better, the team was better, the guys were happy, and they were really ..It is gratifying to the mechanics and to the engineers and to everyone in the team when you are making big improvements and everybody see it and everybody feels it. So it is the same for the driver. It is gratifying that these guys are working hard while I am at home working hard, and I come to a test and the car is perfectly prepared and it is faster and better. So it provides more motivation for me to train harder so I am at the very top of my game when we get to dakar.

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