Pikes Peak in a pack of three: you took part in 1985, 1986 and 1987. What makes this race so special to you?
Jochi Kleint: It's an unbelievable challenge. It kicks off at an elevation of around 2,800 metres and climbs to nearly 4,300 metres, with 156 bends along the way. Back then it was on gravel – and that's unbelievably demanding. And then there's the thin air at that elevation, which is really hard on the engine. The situation got critical at around mile 16, with a dramatic loss in performance. Especially during the first race in 1985, when we were still using a naturally aspirated engine. But I also got to compete three times with a twin engine, which was also quite exciting. The whole concept was absolutely fascinating. Who had ever had two engines in the car? And then there was the atmosphere, the diversity of the drivers – the Pikes Peak experience is indescribable! Competing in this race is an unbelievable honour. Even if it didn't ultimately end with a victory, the three Pikes Peak races were some of the best experiences in my motorsport career. I'm still just as proud as ever of my ‘Rookie of the Year' trophy, which I won in 1985.
From your experience in three races, what would you say is key to success in Pikes Peak?
Jochi Kleint: If you want to make it through Pikes Peak, the team needs to work well together and the vehicle needs to be adjusted specifically for the route. And most importantly, you as a driver need to be perfectly prepared. After all, you're alone in the cockpit. That's why back then I recorded myself reading out my notes with a dictation device, which I listened to over and over again. There are some stretches where you're driving blind. Crests, the sun, blind corners – if you're not prepared, you will lose plenty of time. You need to concentrate 1,000% on each and every stretch. The Race to the Clouds is a challenge which, in my opinion, is not comparable with any other event in the world. If the concept is right and the team has spent lots of time training, I can definitely see Volkswagen bringing home a record!