After making an impressive start to the 29th Dakar Rally the Volkswagen team was dealt a cruel blow today: The factory duo Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany) started the ninth stage as leaders but, like their team mates Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France) in fourth place, were also stopped by a technical defect on the Race Touareg 2 during the ninth stage from Tichit to Nema in Mauritania.
A cam follower in the engine’s valve train broke on Giniel de Villiers’ car. A hole was punched in the valve cover as a result, and the escaping oil ignited on the hot turbocharger. The flames were doused immediately with the onboard fire extinguisher. The car is being towed back to the bivouac by one of the Race-Trucks. Carlos Sainz, who had led the stage comfortably, was slowed when his engine cut-out suddenly and refused to restart probably due to an electrical problem. He is also being towed to the bivouac.
Volkswagen had led the Dakar Rally convincingly from the start on 6 January in Lisbon until today, 15 January. The de Villiers/von Zitzewitz tandem held a 31 minute lead entering the ninth stage. Sainz/Périn only lost second overall on the eighth stage after a hydraulic steering hose chaffed through, and which left Sainz without steering assistance. Volkswagen was able to win six of the nine stages run to date.
Carlos Sousa/Andy Schulz (Portugal/Germany) in the Lagos Team Race Touareg and the factory pairing of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) ended the ninth stage in seventh and ninth positions respectively, each about half-an-hour behind the winner after sacrificing valuable time to help Sainz. In the overall classification, which is now led by Stéphane Peterhansel (France/Mitsubishi), Miller/Pitchford and Sousa/Schulz hold sixth and seventh positions.