The fourth leg featured the extremely demanding crossing of the Andes at an altitude of more than 4,400 meters – including a plateau at an elevation of over 4,000 metres. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) extended their overall advantage by 50 seconds to 4m 24s. Their team colleagues Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) remain the runners-up. The two Volkswagen factory drivers also crossed the finish line of today’s stage in this order.
The fourth day of the world’s toughest desert rally was shaped by extreme physical strains for the entire team due to the crossing of the Andes and a nail-biting battle between Volkswagen and the Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel. The X-raid BMW driver had been leading the special, which had started at an altitude of 3,300 metres in the Atacama Desert, with nearly a one-minute advantage for some of the time but ultimately finished third with a gap of 1m 22s. Behind him the other two Volkswagen factory drivers, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), finished the stage in positions four and five. As a result, de Villiers continues to rank in fourth place overall. Miller improved by two positions and is now in the top ten again.
The leg between San Salvador de Jujuy and Calama was characterized by numerous canyons, riverbeds and quick gravel passages. Many branch-offs made the navigation a tricky proposition for the Volkswagen co-drivers. In addition, the teams had to be careful to avoid punctures on sharp stones and smaller fields of scree. Mission accomplished: None of the Volkswagen drivers had to change any of the BFGoodrich tires.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
“On the first special stage in the Atacama Desert our drivers managed a one-two win which makes me tremendously happy. It was the 125th stage win of a Race Touareg. I’m even happier about the fact that all four Race Touareg cars with our factory drivers handled this demanding special at this altitude so well. The entire team did a good job of dealing with these strains as well and is now tackling its regular chores of the day.”
#300 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
“It was a quick ‘Dakar’ day that actually only started after a beautiful but incredibly long liaison stage. Today it was crucial not to suffer a puncture on the gravel stretches. We managed that. We’ve put another stage past us that ended successfully. It’s good to continue to lead but we’re only in Chile now, and that’s where the rally really gets going.”
#302 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place leg / 2nd place overall
“Today, opening the course as yesterday’s stage winner was no advantage. We’d planned to lose less than one minute today and that plan worked out. More important yet is the fact that a long desert leg is coming up tomorrow, which our team-mate Carlos Sainz will open. So we’ll be in the better position. In terms of the overall standings the situation is extremely close. The order at the top may change any day due to small mistakes or minor problems. The race remains thrilling. And I continue to be optimistic.”
#304 – Mark Miller (USA), 5th place leg / 10th place overall
“Flat out all day – that was the situation throughout today’s special. It was really hard to find the right way because motorcycle riders who had gotten lost were coming up from all sides. That always puts doubts in your mind. But my co-driver Ralph Pitchford did an outstanding job. At the end we caught Krzysztof Holowczyc who had apparently suffered a puncture. In his dust it was no longer possible to attack although we almost managed to overtake him once. On the whole, things were running well today. I wouldn’t mind if it continued this way for the next few days.”
#308 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 4th place leg / 4th place overall
“Today the right tactics consisted of restraint and attack at the right places. Even though we lost a bit of ground again I’m pleased with the result. In the next few days we’ll go into the depths of the Atacama Desert and thus into the heart of the ‘Dakar’. The tables may quickly turn there, including to our benefit. The navigation today wasn’t easy. ‘Well done’ to my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz who did an outstanding job.”
Number of the day
A special victory for the Race Touareg: Since the launch of the cross-country rally prototype program in 2004 the stage win of Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz today marks the 125th stage win in total. At the Dakar Rally the fastest time set on the stage between San Salvador de Jujuy and Calama amounted to the 40th single success.
Standings after leg 04, San Salvador (RA)–Calama (RCH); 207/761 km SS 04/total
Pos. Team Vehicle Leg 04 Total time 1 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E); Volkswagen Race Touareg 3; 1h 57m 09s (1); 11h 09m 14s 2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 3; 1h 57m 59s (2) + 4m 24s 3 Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F); BMW X3 CC; 1h 58m 31s (3) + 5m 41s 4 Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 3; 1h 59m 26s (4) + 19m 14s 5 Krzysztof Holowczyc/Jean-Marc Fortin (PL/B); BMW X3 CC; 2h 03m 05s (8) + 27m 45s 6 Orlando Terranova/Filipe Palmeiro (ARG/P); BMW X3 CC; 2h 01m 13s (6) + 33m 11s 7 Leonid Novitskiy/Andreas Schulz (RUS/D); BMW X3 CC; 2h 07m 44s (9) + 49m 40s 8 Guilherme Spinelli/Youssef Haddad (BR/BR); Mitsubishi Racing Lancer; 2h 08m 32s (10) + 59m 45s 9 Nani Roma/Gilles Picard (E/F); Nissan Navara; 2h 10m 48s (12) + 1h 08m 32s 10 Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA); Volkswagen Race Touareg 3; 1h 59m 52s (5) + 1h 08m 36s