There has been one constant throughout the long competition history of Porsche and that is faith. A strong belief in its engineering and that it can be adapted for use in ways that were not suggested when the design was just a clean sheet of paper. Even in its few competition failures, the lessons were learned and the efforts intensified for whatever the next direction was to be. It is one thing to be good, another lucky, but far more difficult to be consistent. When Zuffenhausen first announced its intention to build the Cayenne, the critical reaction was one of displeasure. What does an SUV have to do with a company whose heritage is within the region of France, known as the Sarthe, home of the 24 Heures Du Mans? A number of Porsches have been good sellers while being labeled as not quite worthy. In many cases, the company prepared a small number of examples for motorsport purposes to confirm that they stood behind the overall concept. Past examples include the 914-6, 924, 944, and even the 928. They may not have rewritten the record books, but the intention and effort was honest. How many car companies can make that claim by taking the risk? Very few indeed.
So what to do with the successful, but misunderstood to the enthusiast, Cayenne? By a simple process of elimination it would have to be an off-road excursion. Dakar was out for a number of reasons, mostly political in nature. The event would have to make sense financially to show off Porsche's engineering prowess and open the Cayenne to a potentially new market.
Welcome to Moscow. The Transsyberia Rally is by all accounts a tough haul through the heart of mother Russia, with the navigational hell of the Gobi desert of Mongolia. The great off-road races, like Baja and Dakar, are unique in their own way and are considered laboratories for automotive development. While Porsche has flooded the event with Werks-prepared Cayennes, to the point that it could be tagged a one-make race, it's the other manufacturers that need to get involved. A few private Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens, Land Rovers, a couple of Suzukis, and an older Toyota Land Cruiser may be worthy competition from a personal level, but hardly the stuff of bragging rights to the commercial world. Get it? Last year's winner was rally legend and California resident, Rod Millen, who was charitable in his comments that the Transsyberia was the biggest challenge of his career as he guided his North America Team Two Cayenne along with co-driver Richard Kelsey to the overall top slot ending in Ulaanbaatar-the home of the original Mongolian barbecue.
Rod Millen took a pass for the 2008 running and decided to go out a winner and pass the baton onto his son, Ryan, who is already well schooled in off-road, to the point that Baja California could be his second home. The kid who looks barely old enough to drive, along with co-driver and ace-prep wiz, Colin Godby, took their Cayenne S wearing the coveted number one and departed from Red Square in Moscow on July 11 just after 11 a.m. Moscow time. Only 7,200 kilometers stood between them and the finish set, some 14 days later in Ulaanbaatar. If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it.
One of the strengths of the Transsyberia Rally is that the rules and regulations are quite clear. Modifications from a production vehicle are limited basically to safety items, and all entries have to be road licensed in their country of origin. No dealer or manufacturer plates need apply. There is no class for true prototypes, the idea being that a team with a modest budget could enter and compete. By all accounts, this strategy has been successful for the competitors, at least the ones who are not driving a Cayenne.