Volkswagen celebrate class victory in Dakar debut.
The Volkswagen works team achieved remarkable success in the Rallye Telef?nica Dakar, their debut in cross-country rallying. After 19 tough stages the very first competitive outing of the Volkswagen Tarek ended with St?phane Henrard and Bobby Willis in sixth position and eighth place for Jutta Kleinschmidt and Fabrizia Pons. As a result, the director of Volkswagen Racing, Rudolf-Helmut Strozyk and his team celebrated the resounding success of their desert debut. Not only did both prototypes, from a field of 130 participants, of whom 55 percent failed to finish, successfully complete the distance of 8602 kilometres. The orange-red desert buggies finished at the head of the field in two disciplines: Volkswagen notched up a one-two in the classification for two wheel drive vehicles from a starting field of twelve. The brand also proved the competitiveness of TDI® technology -- at the finish, of the 67 diesel vehicles that took the start, two of the 218 HP buggies were classified at the top. In an unusually fast Dakar Rally, with an average speed of 107 kph, both Tareks finished in the overall classification's top ten, further proof of the success of the team from Wolfsburg.
"When compared with our targets, this result exceeded our expectations by all stretch of the imagination", remarked Rudolf-Helmut Strozyk happily about the performance of the 33 team members. "It was our desert debut, and we choose the world's hardest cross-country rally to start with. Neither the fantastic overall result, nor the victory in the two-wheel drive vehicle class or the result in the diesel group was on our wish list. We wanted to learn and therefore assembled a team, representing eight nations, to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. From our initial experiences we also immediately achieved meaningful success. My congratulations go to the complete team for this excellent result."
The Tarek developed within a few months by Volkswagen, in cooperation with ItalDesign from Turin in Italy, did not only cause a sensation with the good results. With the third fastest stage time on the third day of competition, and the second best result on the penultimate stage, St?phane Henrard and Bobby Willis also proved the basic potential of the coupe in a competitive environment that was, for the first time for years, of highest quality. Jutta Kleinschmidt and Fabrizia Pons, who set third quickest stage time on the final day, confirmed this result with their finishing positions during the rally: On the second day of competition the experienced women's team fell to 64th place, within four days they had reclaimed a top ten position. On the ninth and tenth stages Jutta Kleinschmidt, the 2001 Dakar winner, even held fourth place overall before losing seven positions due to a technical defect, she then fought her way in to the top ten again.
Dieter Depping and Walter Bachhuber, who drove a third chase car designed Tarek as support for the other two vehicles, retired after an accident on the fifth stage in Tunisia. In the meantime they flew home, however the two Germans insisted on returning for the finish of the rally to surprise their team in Egypt.
Comments at the finish:
Rudolf-Helmut Strozyk, Volkswagen Racing Director: "This result has exceeded all expectations. At the beginning we were not taken seriously by all our opponents, however the critics were quiet by the time we reached Africa. All team members and their families were deprived of a great deal over the last few months. The result is therefore a fantastic reward for all involved, of whom I am very proud and I would like to express my sincerest thanks. Simultaneously, important and fresh impetus for the future is spread. We are at the dawn of an important project whose next step is already planned. Our preparations for the Italian Baja, held between the 13th and 16th March, as a prelude to the 2003 Cross Country World Cup began sometime ago."
Jutta Kleinschmidt: "We are all proud of having conquered this huge challenge -- particularly with such a short period for preparation. I especially want to thank the entire team and my co driver Fabrizia Pons for the excellent work. In spite of all the setbacks we always fought back up to the front and achieved a fantastic debut success for Volkswagen."
St?phane Henrard: "I'm over the moon! Sixth place proves that Volkswagen's basic approach was absolutely correct. It was more than we could have expected in a year with such extremely strong competition. As I started for a works team for the first time, I was able to exploit the advantages of the excellent assistance and push harder than before. Now we'll celebrate the team's success as befits the occasion!"
Dieter Depping: "This is a fabulous team result, to which I would liked to have contributed not just during the preparation and at the start of the rally. I have got to know and learned to respect cross-country rallying. After my accident I am keener than ever to continue and establish myself in this discipline. "