Volkswagen works driver Jutta Kleinschmidt has lived up to her reputation as the “desert queen“ yet again: the 2001 ’Dakar’ winner and co-driver Fabrizia Pons claimed fourth place in the fourth stage of the UAE Desert Challenge in the face of exceptionally tough conditions marked by temperatures above 45 degrees and extremely soft sand.
Her team-mates Juha Kankkunen/Juha Repo and Bruno Saby/Michel Périn, though, had to pay tribute to the sand. Four times, the quadruple World Rally Champion got stuck, losing roughly one hour on the 256-kilometre leg with start and finish in the Moreeb desert. As a result, Kankkunen lost the podium position he had clinched the day before, falling back to fourth place – likely to be his final place overall, as the teams will merely be driving a road section to Dubai on Friday. Saby/Périn, as well, got stuck in the sand, having to use their shovels and sand ladders. Unfortunately, all the physical effort they exerted was not rewarded on account of a defective starter.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"In the hot sand, Jutta proved her outstanding driving skills yet again, while Fabrizia navigated perfectly. It's really unfortunate that - owing to the poor result on the second day caused by a loose bolt in the steering system - our ladies' team were deprived of a good result overall. Juha Kankkunen has had a very good start with Volkswagen. The good performances of our drivers and co-drivers notwithstanding, we know that we still have some room for improvement under these extreme conditions caused by the sand and heat."
#205 – Jutta Kleinschmidt/Fabrizia Pons (D/I)
"Today's stage was even more demanding than yesterday's. Without the minor defect in leg 2 we might have been able to achieve a good result overall. The rally provided excellent training with the Race-Touareg in the dunes before the 'Dakar'."
#207 – Bruno Saby/Michel Périn (F/F)
"The sand is really treacherous! After we'd finally managed to dig the car out, the starter had probably overheated. It's been another unlucky day for us. What a pity!"
#209 – Juha Kankkunen/Juha Repo (FIN/FIN)
"The fourth leg had started well for us but then we kept getting stuck. Compared to Jutta, this cost us almost an hour. Altogether, we're happy about a successful start with Volkswagen. It's been tough, but really good fun."