Dakar: Volkswagen stage 15 report

Volkswagen on podium course entering final day Volkswagen strengthened third and fifth positions overall, one day before the finish, on today's final cross-country stage of the Dakar Rally: Despite starting from an unfavourable 42nd position ...

Volkswagen on podium course entering final day

Volkswagen strengthened third and fifth positions overall, one day before the finish, on today's final cross-country stage of the Dakar Rally: Despite starting from an unfavourable 42nd position today, Jutta Kleinschmidt managed to set the tenth best time on the 15th stage between Tambacounda and Dakar. As a result, with only 31 stage kilometres to be completed on Sunday, the third placed "Desert Queen" and co-driver Fabrizia Pons look set for a podium finish in the Volkswagen Race-Touareg. For the second consecutive day Bruno Saby recorded the second fastest stage time and remains fifth overall with his French countryman Michel Perin. Robby Gordon, who started the stage from 63rd spot this morning, overtook many cars along the dusty Senegalese laterite tracks and finished the day seventh despite changing a tyre. The US-American, who lost 2:48 hours after stopping the previous day to help team colleague Jutta Kleinschmidt, remained twelve overall with co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)

"Almost a perfect day, on which Bruno missed the stage victory by a mere 57 seconds, and on which our drivers drove faultlessly. We left the desert and drove with calculated risk. On Sunday the team will finally see the finish after an extremely hard rally. They thoroughly deserve the result and a little relaxation."

#310 -- Jutta Kleinschmidt (D), 10th place (leg) / 3rd position overall

"With the good result in mind, we elected not to take any risks today. We overtook car after car in the dense dust clouds. The visibility was so bad that we actually had to stop twice. We are now looking forward to seeing the chequered flag in Dakar."

#307 -- Bruno Saby (F), 2nd place (leg) / 5th position overall

"Second place is a great result on this interesting stage, which was everything but easy. As Ari Vatanen, who started in front of us, stopped after a short while we were the first car along the track and obviously couldn't follow anybody else's tracks. Nevertheless my co-driver Michel Perin navigated perfectly yet again."

#317 -- Robby Gordon (USA), 7th place (leg) / 12th position overall

"There was no chance starting from 63rd -- you could see nothing in the dust. After six kilometres we destroyed a wheel rim on a boulder. The wheel got stuck briefly when we were changing it, and we lost about four minutes as a result. After 50 kilometres we bounced off a tree. At the finish we were only 4.55 minutes shy of the stage victory."

From the Volkswagen bivouac

- Family affair: The Belgian Rene Verbist has been with the team since the project started and, in the meantime, car engineer for Jutta Kleinschmidt. His son Francois also made his 'Dakar' debut. The 20-year old, who had previously competed in Belgian one-make cup circuit races, drove the second Volkswagen Race-Truck together with Josep Pujol and Alex Rimbau.

- Farewell desert: After almost 9,000 kilometres, Dakar is the end station for the Volkswagen works team. The majority of the 60 team members travel on a charter flight, arranged by the organisers, to Paris on Monday 17th January and from there to Hanover where they are scheduled to land at 20:00 P.M.

Three questions to Volkswagen works driver Robby Gordon

What surprised you the most during your first 'Dakar'?

"That such an incredible amount of work is invested in this project, and not only during the rally itself, but also in the preparation where the technicians have worked brilliantly."

Lead, roll, hard days -- you experienced quite a few ups and downs...

"I was leading at the beginning. However, after my accident I went through a frustrating period: We got bogged down, dug not only ourselves out but also Jutta. I want to come again, as I have learnt a great deal. I was for example, too slow on day four. On the fifth day I wanted too much and rolled."

As a circuit racer, was it difficult hang in there for 16 days?

"At the start everybody was driving for themselves. I was proud to be able to match the pace of the former 'Dakar' winners. After my accident -- something similar also happened to Colin McRae and some others -- I drove for the team. To be honest: If it had been my own project I would have given up after the accident."

-vw-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Colin McRae , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Fabrizia Pons , Ari Vatanen , Bruno Saby , Michel Périn , Josep Pujol , Kris Nissen
Teams Volkswagen Motorsport