VW's "Car Guy" recounts latest world record

3M-sponsored Volkswagen enthusiast, Rainer Zietlow, visits Dubai to discuss his journey from the northernmost point of Europe to the southernmost tip of Africa

Due to limited travel options, Zietlow and his co-drivers had to charter an aircraft to take them from Turkey to Egypt.
Due to limited travel options, Zietlow and his co-drivers had to charter an aircraft to take them from Turkey to Egypt.

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3M-sponsored driver, Rainer Zietlow, visits Dubai to retrace his record-breaking journey from the northernmost point of Europe to the southernmost tip of Africa

Rainer Zietlow has never been content with a leisurely Sunday drive. For example, at the age of 18 – just six weeks after passing his driving test – Germany’s self-styled ‘Car Guy’ crossed the Sahara.

His thirst for adventure certainly hasn’t been quenched during the intervening years. Today, Zietlow is the proud holder of six driving-related world records; three issued by Guinness World Records and three awarded by TÜV NORD.

His most recent accolade was earned after he and his two co-drivers travelled from the northernmost point of Europe to the southernmost tip of Africa in just 21 days.

Ignoring a 13-day, forced hiatus in Tanzania following a collision, Zietlow and his team drove their Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI approximately 13,000km in just eight days and 10 hours, setting a new TÜV NORD-accredited world record.

Following such an exhausting trek, most people would be happy to put their feet up for a well-earned rest, but not the Car Guy. Less than a month after arriving at his South African destination, Zietlow paid a visit to 3M Gulf’s Innovation Centre in Dubai to retrace his tyre tracks.

“Cape to Cape; from Norway’s North Cape to South Africa’s Cape Agulhas,” he began.

“We set out at three o’clock in the morning on 21 September. The Lord Mayor of the municipality stamped and certified our TÜV NORD document and started the stopwatch. We were on our way.

“No stopping, just driving,” he added. “This was a marathon journey. We only paused to refuel, visit the lavatory, and to pass through border controls.”

One of the most striking elements of Zietlow’s journey was the climatic diversity that he and his colleagues experienced. In stark contrast to the African leg of their adventure, the European stage saw wintry conditions.
“I hadn’t expected to see snow so early in September in Norway,” recounted Zietlow.

“It came quite quickly from the north. The North Pole is only 1,500km away from North Cape,” he explained.

The Touareg travelled from Norway, through Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, and on to Germany via ferry. It was on Germany’s famed Autobahnen that Zietlow was able to open up the ‘Clean Diesel’ engine of his 244 hp Volkswagen Touareg.

“On certain sections of the Autobahnen, there is free speed,” he said.

“It’s not limited to 120km/h like it is here in Dubai; you can drive as fast as you can. We drove the Touareg at up to 230km/h on certain sections of these roads,” said Zietlow.

Unfortunately, the breakneck speeds reached during the German stage were eroded by the tour’s urban sections. With no other option but to navigate Prague’s congested streets, the team lost valuable time in the Czech Republic.
However, they soon reached Slovakia, and paid a brief visit to the production plant at which the Touareg is manufactured.

“It is at this factory that the Volkswagen Touareg, the Audi Q7, and the Porsche Cayenne are produced,” explained Zietlow.

“From here, several other Touaregs accompanied us through Hungary and Serbia, all the way down to Bulgaria,” he explained.

One of the most impressive facts about Zietlow’s journey is that he only had to stop for fuel eight times during its entirety. This was owing to the two 100-litre fuel tanks that were installed in the rear of the vehicle.

From Bulgaria, the Touareg passed into Turkey and it was at Adana ?akirpa?a Airport that things got a little “James Bond”, as Zietlow put it.

“We couldn’t go through Syria, and there was no ferry to Egypt due to the current relationship between the two countries,” he explained.

“We therefore had to charter a flight from Adana – Turkey’s southernmost airport – to Egypt. This was all prepared 18 months in advance; attempting to break a world record is a long-term project. Taking the plane was a little bit like James Bond. We entered the airfield, drove the car onto the aircraft, and it took us about 60 or 70 minutes to reach our destination.

“We were very excited at this point because from here, we could drive all the way down to South Africa,” Zietlow told PMV.

Despite having the memory of snow fresh in their minds, the team was confronted with temperatures upwards of 50°C during the Egyptian stage. They were in no doubt that the African segment of their journey was underway.

“From Egypt, we crossed the border with Sudan, west of the Nile,” said Zietlow.

“This was a military road; it wasn’t open to the general public. However, we were given permission to use it. We drove for around 200km through the desert. The Touareg required additional lubricants, it was so hot,” he said.

The Volkswagen soon reached Ethiopia, and in turn, encountered yet another shift in temperature.

“Ethiopia, I can tell you, was completely different to every other African country that we visited,” said Zietlow.
“It was very high – 2,200m above sea level. Also, you have to be careful not to hit the animals. The altitude near to Addis Ababa is such that it gets very cold at night. The animals sleep on the roads in order to use the heat from the asphalt. They can be very tricky to navigate,” he explained.

Continuing south, the team crossed the border into Kenya. It was here that they embarked upon the most challenging off-road leg of their journey.

“This was the road from hell; a 400km-long gravel trail that proved to be really exhausting,” Zietlow lamented.

“My 3M paint protection system was certainly put to the test. It was also the rainy season, so things got a little wet. We passed lots of Chinese construction firms working on that road, which was lucky because at one stage, we encountered a large, water-filled hole. One of the contractors helped us by building a makeshift path with their Caterpillar, so we didn’t lose much time,” he explained.

Relatively speaking, it had been plain sailing for Zietlow and his co-drivers until this point. Sadly, however, things took a turn for the worse in Tanzaina.

“We had an accident in the south of the country, past Dar es Salaam,” he said.

“We’d been on the road for six days and nine hours when a car just hit us from the front. We couldn’t avoid it. Both vehicles were travelling at approximately 50km/h, but fortunately, there were no casualties,” Zietlow added.

It took 16 people hailing from Tanzania, Austria, and Germany to source replacement parts for the wounded Touareg. Some were procured from local Volkswagen dealer CFAO, whilst others had to be flown in from Germany.

All in all, Zietlow and his team were stationary for 13 days. However, once the car had been restored to its former glory, it was just 4,200km to Cape Agulhas.

“We still had to drive through Zambia, which was very nice,” said Zietlow.

“In Lusaka, we hired a police escort to take us through the traffic. It looked like Hollywood; two gentlemen hanging out of the windows, guiding us nicely through the city,” he explained.

The police escort saved the team a precious hour, and they continued into Zimbabwe and on to the Bay Bridge border crossing with South Africa.

“We took the N1 highway south, past Johannesburg,” said Zietlow.

“We reached Cape Agulhas two days and 50 minutes after restarting our journey. A police officer in Cape Agulhas stopped the clock and stamped our certificate. It was official, we had secured the world record – from Cape to Cape,” the Car Guy concluded.

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