The comments of Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen, Team Manager Peter Utoft and the five works drivers and co-drivers at the half-way-stage of the 2006 Dakar Rally.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"From the technical side our cars or functioning very well, but we suffered a series of setbacks on both the seventh and eighth stages. We were always one-hundred percent competitive and ran with the leading group just as long as nobody got bogged down or lost. We are no longer leading and have to claw back 26 minutes, which is possible but very difficult. In the dunes we are suffering from the fact that the engine gets hot too quickly. In deep sand you need the most cooling, but have very low speeds and consequently low dynamic air pressure in the cooling ducts because you often only drive at walking pace, and spinning wheels require a lot of power. It's the same for everybody. So that the engine does not overheat the power is reduced automatically by a few per cent when required. The system functions very well but it could still be improved. Perhaps we didn't test enough in deep sand. Now we look forward: We have an excellent team and the motivation is as high as ever. As before, we want to win this rally and will do everything possible to achieve this all the way to the flag in Lac Rose."
Peter Utoft (Team Manager)
"Since last year, the team structure has been further improved and the procedures optimised. We have almost ten percent more personnel per rally car in action on the event. All the most important key positions were double staffed. It was important to prepare the team members perfectly for this rally, by competing in Cross Country Rally World Cup events for example. This paid off, as we saw in the first-half of the event: The procedures appear very calm; the team often finished the service work early in the evenings. In such an enormous project like the Dakar Rally you obviously benefit from good preparation, where we also made a step forward. In such a large team it is important to have the correct team members in the correct place at the right time, and until now we have managed this."
#301 -- Bruno Saby (F)
"The start of the rally has never been so tense. Until the sixth stage there were still ten vehicles that were in with a chance of winning. Unfortunately we lost time due to a defect on a fuel line. A positive aspect is that the team has developed exceptionally well. Volkswagen has the potential to win; unfortunately small mistakes have cost time. During the opening days Volkswagen were not leading because Mitsubishi had lost time. However, after the eighth stage Mitsubishi is leading because Volkswagen has dropped back."
# 301 -- Michel Perin (F)
"Bruno and I intended to stick to the following strategy: We didn't want to be too slow, but not too fast, but to stay in contention with the leaders before the real Dakar stages. Unfortunately we had a defect on the seventh stage. Nevertheless it's encouraging that the Race Touareg 2 is extremely competitive. We were able to set very good times without having to drive on the limit -- and we will continue to do this."
# 303 -- Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)
"The rally route has been very picturesque, a great mixture. Actually something that should suit me very well. The rally was very close at the start; however, when the real desert stages arrived the field quickly stretched out. But unfortunately we are already one hour behind the leader, because we got bogged down. I'll have to see how much we can claw back."
# 303 -- Fabrizia Pons (I)
"I'm not happy with our current position we lost too much time on the final stage before the rest day. But the rally isn't over yet. We want to improve our position. As far as the new regulations are concerned, I think that the information contained in the road book for this event is insufficient to be able to work under the new rules. Because, if a control point doesn't appear you drive in circles looking for it and this is dangerous because the potential to make mistakes increases."
# 305 -- Giniel de Villiers (RSA)
"The seventh stage was without doubt the most difficult of the rally. It was disappointing for me to get stuck on the eighth stage. We are now lying 26 minutes 16 seconds behind, however there is still a long way to go. Obviously we wanted to be closer to the leader at this point in time. However, anything is still possible, and the stage after the rest day will be really tough."
# 305 -- Tina Thorner (S)
"I really enjoyed the first part of the rally, because it had many difficult and demanding sections. It's a classic route, a huge challenge. The new regulations have made our job as co-driver even more difficult."
# 307 -- Carlos Sainz (E)
"I'm now forming a real picture of this fascinating sport. There's a great atmosphere here. What I also like is that it is not all about speed but also about strategy, navigation, reliability and team work. I'm very disappointed about the time we lost on Saturday. The clutch problem was probably a result of the previous day when we got bogged down and painstakingly had to free ourselves."
# 307 -- Andreas Schulz (D)
"Our result at half-distance is essentially positive. Carlos is driving in his first desert rally and everybody has seen how good his performance has been. It's a shame that we have dropped back so far due to the clutch problem. Every co-driver have witnessed that the navigation and the search for control points has much more to do with chance than in the past, which certainly isn't ideal for such a high-calibre sport."
# 309 -- Mark Miller (USA)
"I'm a little disappointed since our two rolls on the seventh stage have effectively robbed us of the chance of winning. I must now do my best to move up the overall leader board from day to day and to make no mistakes. I'm happy that I'm just as quick as the others. This should help me in the future. It's great to drive for such a professional team -- the Volkswagen team works fantastically. I want to help Jutta and Giniel get on the podium -- hopefully on the top step."
# 309 -- Dirk von Zitzewitz (D)
"It's shocking just how close good and evil sit at the 'Dakar'. We were in a good position after the sixth stage, and thought that we had thrown everything away by rolling twice on the following day. We were lucky that in spite of our bad luck we are still in the top 10. However, it hurts to see just how close we were to a big prize. Plenty can happen on a 'Dakar'. We have another tough day in front of us after the rest day. You can never be sure of a good position here. The rally only finishes at Lac Rose."