Dakar: Volkswagen stage 15 report

Volkswagen -- with ten stage victories -- fastest team In the 2007 Dakar Rally Volkswagen -- having clinched ten of 14 possible stage victories and leading the event for eight days -- was the dominant team in the field, but in the overall ...

Volkswagen -- with ten stage victories -- fastest team

In the 2007 Dakar Rally Volkswagen -- having clinched ten of 14 possible stage victories and leading the event for eight days -- was the dominant team in the field, but in the overall classification the factory team headed by Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen was not rewarded for its performance.

After 8,000 kilometres factory driver Mark Miller (USA) and his co-driver Ralph Pitchford (South Africa) in the Race Touareg 2, as the make's best pairing, finished in fourth place overall. Prior to this, a defect on a cam follower in the valve train of the diesel engine, which had never occurred before in countless kilometres of testing and competition, had robbed the German automotive manufacturer that had been successfully defending its lead up to this point of all chances for victory.

On all the competition days and in highly varied terrain the Race Touareg powered by a 285-hp 2.5-litre TDI turbodiesel engine had been proving its strengths: From the first to the eighth stage the Volkswagen drivers were leading the 29th running of the desert classic. In the final analysis, this shows a significant improvement over the prior year when the squad finished with five days of leading the rally and five stage victories. On the ninth stage both of the best-placed Race Touareg prototypes were struck by an identical engine defect that caused them to suffer an unrecoverable set-back: Giniel de Villiers (South Africa), runner-up in last year's 'Dakar', with co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany), who had been leading with a half-hour advantage up to that point, and Carlos Sainz (Spain) with co-driver Michel Périn (France), who had been running in second place up to the eighth stage.

In the following chase to make up ground the factory team and the drivers gave proof of their unbroken sporting spirit: In a fantastic showing Carlos Sainz -- in his second "Dakar" the front runner from the third to the sixth day of the competition and two-time stage winner up to that point -- delivered a series of three further stage victories, starting with the twelfth leg. In the end, the Spaniard finished in ninth position overall. Giniel de Villiers, who clinched four stage wins, including two of the three most difficult stages in Mauritania, and was leading the field on the seventh and eighth stages, ultimately improved from 13th to eleventh position.

The Portuguese Carlos Sousa and his German co-driver Andy Schulz proved that in a customer-run Race Touareg 2 excellent showings are possible as well. The duo from the Portugese Lagos Team, for whose fielding the German squad of Phoenix Sport headed by Team Director Ernst Moser was responsible, won the first stage, had the overall lead on the rally's first two days and defended third place up to the sixth stage. On the seventh stage the duo got stuck in the sand but was able to free itself. In the heavy sandstorm, though, the driver and co-driver unfortunately lost sight of each other and a lot of time in the process of looking for one another. Sousa/Schulz finished the rally at the famous Lac Rose in seventh place overall.

The four-time Dakar Rally winner Ari Vatanen from Finland in the fourth Race Touareg, navigated by his Italian co-driver Fabrizia Pons, on the second stage dropped back to 113th place after a driving mistake while passing through water. On the seventh day a fire of the vehicle put a premature end to the duo's running.

-credit: volkswagen

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Series DAKAR