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20 Questions with Claes Blomquist

ClaesHead Mechanic
Inventor Racing Team

Thank you kindly for taking the time to write to us Claes.

Where is the team based and how did it get its start?
It is based on the West Coast of Sweden, in a place called Vårgårda situated 60 km east from Gothenburg.

In reviewing your website (www.dakar2003.nu) it looks like the team’s been rallying for quite some time. What other vehicles have you raced, and in which races?

  • Claes: In a Volvo C303 in the 1989 Dakar together with Ivan and at a rally called “Transylvania Trophy” 1994, also in a Volvo C303.
  • Ivan: Dakar 3 times (-89, -96 and -97) and also at the Atlasrally 1994.
  • Mikael: Endurance circuit racing, (Swedish Endurance Racing Cup) with a Volvo S40, rear wheel drive with a 6-cylinder double turbo engine from the Volvo S80.

Many of us on the site enjoy the Volvo Cross Country as a versatile every day vehicle with a bit of light off-road here and there. Why did you choose the Volvo Cross Country to race the 2003 Paris-Dakar Rally?
Because it’s a cool car! It has got a tough look, I think it’s the most beautiful car Volvo has ever made. The body is also more aero dynamic and not as heavy. Concerning the framework, the shafts and the wheel suspension we are using well-tried machinery from the Volvo C303, combined with the new technology i.e. the engine and the body.

In real life, what car is your daily driver, a Volvo perhaps?!
Well, I’m driving a VW Transporter. Shouldn’t maybe, but it has got a generous cargo compartment…

The Paris-Dakar Rally is well known for being one of the most demanding races on earth. How does one physically prepare for such a race?
Physically, well.. of course it’s important to have a “normal” physical condition, but that’s important for everyone. More important maybe, is to be mentally prepared, for example by watching videos from other teams participating in Dakar and maybe go to a desert for some test-driving. Myself i have working several time i Africa with special off-road trucks drilling equipment.Volvos in Sweden

I realize this may require an enormous answer but in general, what are some of the considerations that need to be made when creating a vehicle specifically designed for the Paris-Dakar event?
Most important is to consider power and reliability before speed and “cool features”. We have a saying in Sweden that says: “it’s better to hurry up slowly”. There are two ways in building a rally vehicle – either to build a speed racer which endurance probably wouldn’t be enough or to build a car with availability performance, strong and safe. But of course, we are participating to compete, so we will only slow down our speed when necessary.

Over the years, we’ve seen footage of some vehicles catching some serious air over the desert dunes. I’ve always wondered if this was deliberate or a mistake on the part of the driver! Care to comment on this?
It’s both deliberate and mistaken. Sometimes, there is no other option then to catch some air so therefore, the cars are built for doing this. But of course, when the sight is reduced to almost zero due to darkness or a situation compared to be snow-blind, there can be unintentional “air adventures”.

What vehicle will you be using as a support vehicle?
It will be a small or a big Volvo Truck, which model is not decided yet.

How many tires will you go through during the course of the race, and how many will you carry on the car at any given time?
We will always have two spare wheels onboard of the racing car. Generally, you don’t wear out the tires in a desert, so those two are in case of other emergencies. We have not yet decided which tire we will be using, we have to carry out some testing first.

What’s the fuel capacity and range of the vehicle?
About 400 litres capacity. The rule says that we should be able to go 800 km with refuelling.

Judging by the photos you’ve provided, there’s been an enormous amount of work done on the car thus far. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the approximate cost of all the modifications done to the car so far, and what’s the end budget?

The budget for the racing car is almost 900 000 SEK (92 000 $)
Support vehicle 500 000 SEK (51 000 $)
Entry fees for the team 460 000 SEK (47 000 $)
Transportation 40 000 SEK ( 4 000 $)
Fuel (5000 litres per vehicle) 200 000 SEK (20 000 $)
Spare parts 50 000 SEK ( 5 000 $)
Total: 2 150 000 SEK (220 000 $)

How many hours of work do you expect to use getting the car ready for the race?
About 2000 hours.

Was the car purchased or donated by Volvo, and what sort of support have they provided to this point?
Volvo supported us with a V70 XC 2001, we are also promised to get help with parts and also some know-how from the development departments.

Is this the first time a Volvo Cross Country has been used for the Paris Dakar Rally?
Yes, what we know this should be the first time.

What sort of unique challenges have you encountered in converting the Cross Country to a Paris-Dakar contender?
I haven’t seen any yet. But two main issues are the roadclearance and the space for the driver.

What engine and drivetrain will be powering the Cross Country to victory?
The engine is the new common-rail D5 diesel from the S80/V70/S60. The regulation demands a 39 mm restrictor for the air intake to the turbo, because of this we need to re-optimise the programme for the engine management system. We plan to take out 240 horsepower and a torque of 425 Nm. The powertrain consists of a five-speed gearbox and a synchronised transfer case from the 6-wheel C303.

After pulling the car entirely apart, what’s you opinion on the build quality of the Volvo Cross Country?
I don’t have any experience from dismounting this kind of car, it’s some plastic details in it. But generally, the quality is very high!

When and where will the vehicle be field tested?
First we will do some test in a local gravel pit, and then we hope we can use Volvo’s testing ground Hällered. Then in September or October we will go to Spain and maybe to Marocco for testing in the heat and the real rally environment and we will also utilise some sand beaches in Denmark.

Who are your sponsors?
The main sponsor is Autodesk and also other companies like Rånäs Bilfjädrar, Uni Kardan and 3D Connexion.

Aside from this website, where can we find out more about the team and your progress?
We are about to change the website into English and then try to update at least once a week.

Thank you kindly for your time Claes!

We look forward to tracking your team’s progress, both to the starting AND finish line!

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