Tumultuous celebration at the “Dakar” finish: Volkswagen has won the Dakar Rally for the third time in succession. Standing alongside Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) on the podium in Buenos Aires on Sunday will be Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E). In front of millions of enthusiastic spectators the new Race Touareg 3 scored a much celebrated one-two-three finish in the desert classic through Argentina and Chile. As a result, Volkswagen is the only manufacturer to have won the automobile category in the desert classic with diesel technology – and remains unbeaten on the South American continent thanks to TDI power. To complete the victory all three cars must still roll across the winner’s ramp on Sunday and midday local time in Buenos Aires.
Three Volkswagen “Dakar” winners on the Podium
With Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar and Timo Gottschalk from Germany a third duo clinched a “Dakar” victory for Volkswagen in the 33rd running of the motorsport marathon. Thanks to superior and exceptionally durable high-tech made in Wolfsburg, the three victorious driver/co-driver pairs from the previous three years mount the winners’ podium as first, second and third – an expression of a harmonious and strong driving squad that dominated the 2011 “Dakar” from the beginning.
Volkswagen alone is credited with 12 of a possible 13 stage victories. Carlos Sainz realised a personal best with his stage victory on the way to Buenos Aires: Now with stage win number 24 he surpasses the 23 stage victories scored in the car class by current rival Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel. One of the Volkswagen teams led the rally, with its many extremely hard stages, from the start. The challenges: winding gravel roads, soft and deep desert sand in the unrelenting Atacama Desert, navigationally demanding sections through labyrinth-like canyons and washed-out river beds as well as spectacular river crossings. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) completed the solid Volkswagen team performance in sixth position. All four Race Touareg 3 that started finished the rally in leading positions and continued the success story of enviable reliability: Volkswagen has not recorded a single technically related retirement in cross country rallying in four years.
The three pillars of a historic victory
Reliable technology, perfect teamwork and strong driver squad – Volkswagen once again set the standards during the 2011 Dakar Rally with this winning formula. The TDI technology, which represents efficiency and reliability in millions of Volkswagen road cars, revolutionised cross country rallying. Thanks to the powerful and compact design it is also pioneering in the “Dakar”. The four 310 hp Race Touareg 3 spooled-off the approximate 9,600 kilometres overall distance with clockwork precision – and in the process always perfectly prepared for the forthcoming rally day by a closely-knit team and prepared tactically astute by Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. In addition to the service crew on location, the employees in Wolfsburg and Hanover undertook careful preparatory work beforehand – indispensable for the “Dakar” win. The technological basis – unbeaten since the end of 2008 – was converted by Sainz/Cruz into seven, Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk into four and de Villiers/von Zitzewitz into one stage victory.
The three: new Race Touareg triumph on debut
The third generation Race Touareg equipped with a 2.5 litre TDI engine and permanent four-wheel drive completed its “Dakar” premiere successfully from the beginning. The power unit’s in-line 5-cylinder, bi-turbo design guaranteeing compact dimensions and low overall weight when compared to its direct competition proved to be the best overall package for the third time in succession suiting both the WRC-like tracks and the extreme dune crossings. The TDI engine in the Race Touareg 3 is one of the most powerful and, at the same time, most efficient diesel power units in motorsport.
On extremely hot stages, where ambient temperatures neared 60 degrees Celsius, the new cooling concept paid dividends for the extreme prototype from Wolfsburg. Thanks to improved air flow and an optimised radiator the Race Touareg 3 shrugged off the boiling heat in Chile’s Atacama Desert and the extreme conditions in the notorious dunes in the Sierras Pampeanas around Fiambalá in Argentina. Reliability combined with speed – on every terrain Volkswagen demonstrated its technical expertise during the 2011 “Dakar”.
The three: multiple-winners made in Wolfsburg
One-two in 2009, one-two-three in 2010, one-two-three in 2011 – Volkswagen continues an irresistible winning streak in the Dakar Rally. The Wolfsburg based brand has been pace setter since the event moved from Africa to South America. In January 2009, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz recorded the brand’s first “Dakar” victory since the prototype project started in 2004, followed by their team mates Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA). It was the second Volkswagen win in motorsport’s toughest test after Freddy Kottulinsky/Gerd Löffelmann (S/D) had won in a production based Volkswagen Iltis in 1980. In 2010, the first one/two/three followed with Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) claiming victory from their Volkswagen team mates Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in the closest ever “Dakar” finish in history. Number three marks the successful revenge for Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk – also an important entry in their career histories.
Nasser Al-Attiyah becomes the first Arab in the desert classic’s history to be presented with the big “Dakar” trophy. The Qatari won in his sixth “Dakar” competition, his second for Volkswagen, for the first time. His navigator Timo Gottschalk is only the fourth co-driver, after Gerd Löffelmann, Andreas Schulz and Dirk von Zitzewitz, to bring the “Dakar” victory to Germany – a premiere for the vehicle technology engineer living in Rheinsberg, Brandenburg.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
“The third successive ‘Dakar’ victory for Volkswagen is a historic performance which was achieved thanks to perfect teamwork, exceptional driving and navigational skills and more specifically thanks to superior technology. I’m incredibly proud of the entire team, both the employees who made this win possible and also the team with its superhuman efforts here on location. It was without a shadow of doubt the toughest ‘Dakar’ that we have ever contested, and also probably the best organised. My compliments therefore also go to the organiser A.S.O. I think we proved that the Race Touareg 3 is currently the world’s most reliable and strongest cross country rally vehicle. This is the result of years of hard work. Congratulations to Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk who have worked outstandingly and obviously also to the other Volkswagen pairs who made this one-two-three finish possible.”
#302 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place leg / 1st position overall
“My first ‘Dakar’ win. I’m absolutely delighted to have been the first Arab to win the world’s toughest desert rally. These feelings are incredibly difficult to express in words. I reached my greatest goal thanks to the world’s best cross country rally car and the best team in this sport. I’m delighted for the entire squad which slaved around the clock for three weeks for this victory. In Timo Gottschalk I have an exceptional co-driver at my side, who played an immense role in this victory. Today we’ll party like there’s no tomorrow.”
#302 – Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver
“Victory in the ‘Dakar’ – I can still hardly believe it. Over last few days we built up a comfortable advantage and things looked really good for us in the previous stages. Nevertheless, everybody ignored any thoughts of victory, because anything can happen in this rally even within sight of the finish. I’m proud and happy about the win. It was the hardest ‘Dakar’ which I have ever contested. We’ve now spent two weeks at the absolute physical limit. The organiser kept its promise of wanting to stage the toughest Dakar Rally ever. To have won exactly this one is an incredibly good feeling.”
#308 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 4th place leg / 2nd position overall
“The Dakar Rally is an extremely long race during which a great deal can happen. At the beginning we tried to drive cautiously and tactically. Because you only have a chance of getting a good result if you reach the finish. This approach brought us second place and I’m delighted about the result. A podium finish in the Dakar Rally is always something special. Something we can personally be proud of. The team can be proud of making first, second and third positions possible.”
#308 – Dirk von Zitzewitz (D), co-driver
“An incredibly demanding ‘Dakar’ because the days were extremely long. In the mornings you had to get up very early, we only reached the bivouac in the late afternoon. There were loads of changes to the roadbook, which duly gave us co-drivers plenty of work during the night. The stages were also physically challenging. In the Atacama Desert the navigation could certainly have been a little more challenging, which was the case in Argentina, as is fitting for a ‘Dakar’. My highlight was the Fiambalá stage which we won because of perfect navigation. All in all a positive Dakar Rally for me – especially because second overall was the reward.”
#300 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 3rd position overall
“All in all I’m more than satisfied with 2011 Dakar Rally. I think that my co-driver Lucas Cruz and I did a good job and therefore were rightfully fighting for victory for a long time. Unfortunately two bad days and several mistakes cost us any chance of overall victory. But this is the Dakar Rally: You always have to be alert. I’m delighted for the entire Volkswagen team, which truly deserves this one-two-three finish, and to have contributed to it. Everybody worked hard for this win.”
#300 – Lucas Cruz (E), co-driver
“This was by far the most challenging ‘Dakar’ that I have ever completed. It was full of tricky situations for a navigator which had to be solved with caution. There were plenty of dune sections of soft sand which meant an incredible amount of work for the driver in the cockpit. On top of this were the WRC-like sections with jumps and extreme temperatures. The rally was very varied. However, the Race Touareg 3 is the perfect car for such conditions. From the sporting point of view we were beaten for the first time since Carlos Sainz and I compete together. However, I think that we nevertheless did a good job. Luck deserted us on occasion.”
#304 – Mark Miller (USA), 5th place leg / 6th position overall
“This ‘Dakar’ was a wonderful event, with many interesting stages that demanded everything from man and machine. Unfortunately we lost so much time already on the second stage that we were out of the battle for overall victory. Our role was then to support our team mates – a task we were happy to do. When you work an entire year as team for victory, it goes without saying that you support one another to reach the targets. We did exactly this with energy and vigour on the eleventh stage to help Carlos Sainz onto the podium.”
#304 – Ralph Pitchford (ZA), co-driver
“This year on the Dakar Rally there were many hard stages that ran through fascinating landscapes. Mark and I had real highlight stages which we really enjoyed. Unfortunately we lost our chance of overall victory right at the beginning. However, I’m delighted for the entire team that it turned out to be a one-two-three finish. I think this is just reward. Now, after the last stage and after all the tension has gone we’ll have a big celebration. It was fantastic to have worked together with this team. We have all earned the fun and relaxation which comes now.”