100 metres. That is roughly the distance that the SEAT Tarraco has to cover. It does not seem like much, but the challenge becomes more complicated when you throw in a 60 degree slope and tonnes of soft sand beneath the wheels. How do you get to the top of a mountain of sand without failing in the attempt? Stefan Ilijevic, who is responsible for Pre-development, Patents and Innovation at SEAT, gives us the keys to success.
1. Less pressure, more grip
“If you’re going to drive on dunes, the first thing is to lower the tyre pressure by about 1.5 bars”, explains Stefan. This increases the surface area on the tyres for better traction to move forward.
2. Assistants on hand
The Tarraco is equipped with several assistants to adapt driving to the type of terrain. To tackle the dune it is best to deactivate the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to prevent the wheels from locking so they can continue to maximise traction at all times.
3. 4x4 versatility
A must have for this challenge is a vehicle equipped with 4-wheel drive. “Of the 6 drive modes featured on this SUV, the one required in this case is off road, which is the most versatile mode for driving on all kinds of terrain”, says the SEAT engineer.
4. Low gears
When entering the dune you have to start off accelerating on a diagonal tilt in either first or second gear, never higher, as you need the maximum power to take a steep climb on unstable ground.
5. Refrain from braking uphill
The Tarraco takes on a dune measuring over 100m in the Merzouga desert.
While driving uphill you should never step on the brake or you run the risk getting stuck in the sand. Only brake when you’ve passed the summit of the dune. Once there, take advantage of the momentum to start on the next one.
6. Consistent speed
“In order to avoid getting stuck in another car’s tyre tracks going uphill, you have to follow them at a slight angle and drive between 20 and 30 km/h”, says Stefan. It’s important to drive gently so you don’t drift any sand and create a dune in front of the vehicle.