Dakar Rally, Leg 6, 8 January 2009
After a postponed start and a shortened leg Volkswagen out with what I guess you could call a double hat trick. However, due to a technical issue and cutting the course, Nasser Al-Attiyah (BMW) is on the bubble and could lose out bigtime. In the end, this put Volkswagen in a 1-2-3 for the stage and overall. Unfortunately, Depping/Gottschalk had a technical and are in 11th.
Following a turbulent sixth leg, Volkswagen now leads the Dakar Rally with three of its Race Touareg cars.
In the overall rankings, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) are 7.39 minutes ahead of Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F) and 17.51 minutes ahead of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA). Volkswagen has already led this year’s Dakar Rally, from the second to the fourth leg.
All three Volkswagen drivers have now moved up one place overall after a day which kicked off with an extremely tough and selective 60-kilometre stretch of dunes and concluded with some easier dirt tracks. This is because the leading team of Nasser Al-Attiyah/Tina Thörner (Q/S) in a BMW X3 incurred some technical problems on the way from San Rafael to Mendoza in Argentina and took a short cut, missing several of the waypoints and consequently being excluded. This allowed Volkswagen to achieve a threefold leg victory, with Giniel de Villiers coming in ahead of Mark Miller and Carlos Sainz – yet another superb driving and navigating performance.
The German Volkswagen duo Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D), who came second yesterday, were less lucky. After incurring a technical fault, they were forced to stop and were towed to the bivouac by a Volkswagen race truck. Depping/Gottschalk are now ranked eleventh overall.
This turn of events means that Volkswagen now has a comfortable lead in the first half of the rally, with the three teams’ closest challengers, Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz (E/E) in a Mitsubishi, trailing behind the front-runners by 31.18 minutes.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
“My congratulations go out to the Volkswagen team today. The outcome of today’s leg and the overall rankings, with three Race Touareg cars at the top in both cases, is evidence of the fact that we prepared very well for this tough Dakar Rally. It has everything we had reckoned with, such as complicated navigation, demanding stretches of driving and, above all, plenty of excitement. We can be very happy with this interim result. But we are not forgetting that there are still some tough legs to come, and we now need to remain focused.”
#301 – Carlos Sainz (E), 3rd place leg / 2nd place overall
“My mechanics did some great work overnight and you can no longer tell we rolled the vehicle on yesterday’s leg. The race Touareg ran like a dream again today. The leg as a whole went very well. The only mishap was getting stuck at the foot of a dune and it took us a couple of minutes to get out of that one. What’s really important in this ‘Dakar’ is the resilience of the materials. And after what happened to us yesterday, I’m happy that we crossed the finishing line today in such a good position. It’s proof of how reliable our cars are.”
#305 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
“An unbelievably tough leg today. The first third was all about overcoming very high dunes, some of them with very soft sand. The TDI power in our Race Touareg really helped us keep going where others got into difficulties. And we are more than happy with today’s result.”
#308 – Mark Miller (USA), 2nd place leg / 3rd place overall
“It took me a while to get into the rhythm of things today, but when I overtook a Mitsubishi in the dunes, my instinct was aroused once more. We had a great duel with Robby Gordon in the Hummer along this very difficult stretch. But the most significant piece of news today is that our vehicles are really reliable and the current results are just great.”