Both Volkswagen Race Touaregs maintain front positions
Wolfsburg (24 June 2008). Seventh leg, seventh stage victory: U.S. Volkswagen factory driver Mark Miller and his South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford claimed their second stage victory at the Rallye dos Sertões. For the German automobile manufacturer, this marked the seventh stage victory on the so far seven legs of the cross-country rally through Brazil. On the 462-kilometre route between Balsas and Floriano, the second factory duo Giniel de Villers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, which got stuck in the mud for a short time, finished in second place. The South African-German pairing that has a tally of five individual exploits and the win of the prologue, continues heading the overall standings with a lead of more than nine minutes over Miller/Pitchford.
The seventh leg was the first part of another marathon leg at which no service by the Volkswagen mechanics is permitted. The two Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 vehicles continue to deliver high reliability. After the first marathon leg on Saturday and Sunday and the longest special stage on Monday, the two 280-hp TDI diesel-powered prototypes were in for another technical acid test on Tuesday. Part one of this extremely tough reliability test included muddy and slippery sections in some places, requiring extreme caution to prevent major damage.
On Wednesday, the second marathon leg across a 419-kilometre distance between Floriano and Crateus means a change of pace for the team. In addition to slippery gravel sections, driving through villages with speed limits and extremely demanding navigation for the co-drivers are on the agenda. The Rallye dos Sertões ends on Friday (27 June) after ten legs and a total of 4,500 kilometres in the north-eastern town of Natal on the Atlantic coast.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"Today's leg was part four of a string of five special stages, which are extremely rough on the material. Both Race Touareg vehicles continue running without the slightest problems despite this continuous acid test. Nevertheless, we still maintain that despite our big advantage over our rivals we should not become overconfident. But Giniel de Villiers and Mark Miller's controlled style of driving shows that they're judging the risks properly."
#302 - Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 2nd place (leg) / 1st place overall
"Today we had a 'big moment', which fortunately cost us only about six minutes. After a right-hand turn we hit very slippery mud on which we slipped. Never before in my life have I seen such slippery ground. We got stuck briefly and my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz had to put the sand panels under the car. Thanks to the tremendous power of the Race Touareg we got out quickly again. Unfortunately, Dirk took a little mud bath in the process. The good news is that the car is completely okay."
#303 - Mark Miller (USA), 1st place (leg) / 2nd place overall
"It's been a good day, which we approached very conservatively. Above the place where Giniel de Villiers slipped, we could already see helicopters circling in the air, so I knew I'd have to reduce my speed. We waited to see whether the two would manage to free themselves out of the mud and went out on the track in front of them. That we've got such a comfortable overall lead with both cars is largely owed to the Race Touareg's reliability. After all, we've been running for several tough days already - and there are three more to go until we finish."