The biggest challenge for Volkswagen at the Silk Way Rally was themselves. The 4th place competitor was over 6 hours back in the end. However, the teams and new Race Touareg 3 were under some heavy race conditions and we even saw Giniel de Villiers flip and retire. The organizers put together a great course that included wide open straights, letting the 310hp TDI stretch its legs and deep water crossings. This marks the 4th win for the Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz team.
Volkswagen celebrated a one-two-three win at the Silk Way Rally through Russia: on the new Race Touareg 3’s competitive debut Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (E/E) triumphed in front of their team colleagues Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in predecessor models.
The tough and demanding rally that led from St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea to the Olympic city of Sochi on the Black Sea served as the team’s preparation for the 2011 Dakar Rally. The penultimate day saw a high-ranking visitor: Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, visited the Volkswagen team, had the squad show him the bivouac and “Dakar” winner Carlos Sainz explain the Volkswagen Race Touareg 3 to him. Putin expressed enthusiasm afterwards.
The new Race Touareg 3, which is powered by a highly efficient 310-hp TDI diesel engine, marked the next step in Volkswagen’s technical development for the Dakar Rally. Updated aerodynamics with improved air routing on the one hand and evolutions of the chassis and powertrain on the other are aimed at providing the basis for the third consecutive “Dakar” victory.
In Russia the new components were subjected to in-depth testing on the new Race Touareg 3. The eight legs of the Silk Way Rally through the Volga Delta, the Kalmykian desert and the big Caucasus were a test in competitive conditions. On the quick gravel sections with long flat-out passages and stretches with small dunes both the technology and the drivers were taken to the limits. Another important aspect was to train the interaction with the co-drivers for the cross-country classic in January: some of the legs were up to 700 kilometres long.
With their fourth victory in their fourth joint race the 2010 “Dakar” winners, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz, continued the success story of the Race Touareg. The cross-country rally prototype has clinched a total of 14 overall victories and 42 podium places in 29 rally runs since 2004. 121 out of 225 possible stage wins and 120 leading days complement the successful track record of Volkswagen’s “Dakar” programme. At the 2010 Silk Way Rally Volkswagen celebrated eight out of eight possible stage wins and was leading the event on all eight days.
The incident involving Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz showed how difficult the “Dakar” dress rehearsal was. The South African-German duo opened the course on the fifth day of the rally when it hit a transverse rut at a blind spot and rolled over. Thanks to the high-level safety equipment of the Race Touareg the driver and the co-driver sustained no injuries but had to retire from the event due to a damaged cooling system.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
“The decision to contest the Silk Way Rally as a Dakar Rally dress rehearsal paid off in every minute. For the new Race Touareg 3 it was the final endurance test for our run in January 2011 and it proved to work perfectly. For the entire squad it was important to internalise the processes and procedures again. And last but not least it was a big challenge for the drivers and co-drivers and the perfect opportunity to gel with each other. All in all, we can be more than pleased.”
#100 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place overall
“The Silk Way Rally was a real acid test for the Dakar Rally and a successful one at that. Our aim was to gain as much experience as possible with the new Race Touareg 3 and its new components. The route with the long special stages with difficult dune passages and hot days was virtually tailor-made for this purpose. We can take a lot of positive things home from Russia, primarily the knowledge that the Race Touareg 3 is a reliable and quick car. That’s encouraging for the ‘Dakar.’”
#100 – Lucas Cruz (E), co-driver
“The Silk Way Rally was at times tougher for the co-drivers than the Dakar Rally. There were countless branch-offs and directional changes in quick succession. Finding the right way was often a tough job. In addition, the Silk Way Rally gave us the first opportunity to test the stricter rules regarding the way points. This, too, was a good test for the ‘Dakar’.
#101 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), retirement
“We’ve got to take the positive things home from the Silk Way Rally although the disappointment about our retirement predominates. My co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and I were very pleased with our performance up to this unfortunate incident and we were leading the rally. But the accident also showed that in cross-country rally events the race can be over within just a few seconds.”
#101 – Dirk von Zitzewitz (D), co-driver
“I’m impressed with what the organisers of the Silk Way Rally came up with this year. The route was a lot more demanding than last year. That was both a challenge and good fun. Up to our accident things had been going well for us. The crash itself was a mishap of the kind that is always possible in this type of sport. I’m also impressed with the solid team performance of all the Race Touareg crews. Being so close in terms of performance provides a positive feeling for the ‘Dakar.’”
#102 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place overall
“I experienced a lot of positive things at this rally, and learned a lot as well. In the dunes I made a big mistake and lost a lot of time in the battle for victory – this won’t happen to me again like this. In many respects the Silk Way Rally was a good test for the ‘Dakar’, also with respect to the teamwork with my co-driver Timo Gottschalk.”
#102 – Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver
“This rally was extremely demanding – for the material as well as for us drivers and co-drivers. We started early each day. The road-books were loaded with information and thus meant a lot of work. This also took us to our physical performance limits with respect to concentration. I think everyone is exhausted – this also shows us what shape we’ll need to be in for the Dakar Rally.”
#104 – Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place overall
“At our personal ‘Dakar’ dress rehearsal we were struggling with some minor problems. There were two or three ‘Dakar‘-like legs. The teamwork between the driver and co-driver is complex. After the long ‘Dakar’ break Ralph Pitchford and I had a hard time finding our rhythm and were only working in perfect harmony towards the end. After the rally we’ll continue to work together on being able to deliver top performance at the ‘Dakar’ from the very first minute.”
#104 – Ralph Pitchford (ZA), co-driver
“The terrain at the Silk Way Rally was absolutely fascinating and challenging. It was a huge step compared with last year. The terrain was very varied and demanded the full amount of driving and navigational skills. The support by the local people was good as well. All in all it was a great event and a good decision to run here.”
Tentative final results
Standings after leg 08, Maykop (RUS)–Sochi (RUS); 16/375 km SS8/total
Pos. Team, Vehicle, Leg 08, Total time
1 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Volkswagen Race Touareg 3, 19m 23s (4), 19h 42m 02s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, 16m 34s (1), + 8m 27s
3 Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, 17m 44s (2), + 40m 22s
4 Matthias Kahle/Thomas Schünemann (D/D), SMG Buggy, 22m 33s (8), + 6h 50m 09s
5 Binyamin Dzhepaev/Alexey Kuzmich (RUS/RUS), UAZ Pickup, 23m 27s (11), + 7h 12m 26s
6 Frédéric Chavigny/Jean Brucy (F/F), Nissan Pathfinder, 21m 26s (7), + 7h 12m 48s
7 Alexander Mironenko/Sergey Lebedev (RUS/RUS), Nissan Frontier, 3h 00m 00s (28), + 7h 28m 46s
8 Benediktas Vanagas/Saulius Jurgelenas (LT/LT), OSC Oscar, 19m 55s (5), + 9h 01m 13s
9 Alexey Berkut/Konstantin Mescheryakov (RUS/RUS), Mitsubishi Pajero, 17m 53s (3), + 9h 14m 53s
10 Raz Heymann/Hillel Segal (IL/IL), Mitsubishi Pajero, 24m 46s (15), + 9h 31m 12s