Huge leap forward for Volkswagen.
On the first 'real' desert stage of the Rallye Telef?nica Dakar Volkswagen made a huge leap forward. As already during the prologue and on the third stage, St?phane Henrard and Bobby Willis once again achieved the best two-wheel drive vehicle time with their Tarek. On the 285 kilometre long special stage on Monday, from Tozeur to El Borma, the Belgian British team improved five positions to ninth, in the overall classification, by setting the day's sixth fastest stage time. With the day's tenth quickest time Jutta Kleinschmidt and Fabrizia Pons confirmed Volkswagens strong performance. The women's team clawed back a further 25 positions and now lie in twelfth overall.
In contrast, Dakar newcomer Dieter Depping was struck by bad luck. Together with Walter Bachhuber, the man from Wedemark in Lower Saxony, who was the best-placed Volkswagen works driver in 13th position overall, rolled his Tarek on the fifth stage. Both driver and co driver were uninjured. Jutta Kleinschmidt stopped at the scene of her team colleague's accident, and in spite of the time she lost, declared that she was satisfied with her result. "We immediately overtook 17 competitors", reported the 2001 Dakar winner. "Under these circumstances the tenth best time is really very good. Since we have made excellent progress, presumably in the forthcoming days we will have to drive less often in the dust clouds of the cars in front."
"The performances of St?phane and Jutta were very pleasing and make us feel positive regarding the remaining stages", as Rudolf-Helmut Strozyk, director of Volkswagen Racing, assessed the fifth day's competition from a total of 17. "Dieter drove outstandingly quick times until he rolled. The accident happened at an inadequately marked point in the road book. The most important thing however, is that both driver and co driver are uninjured. We are trying to tow the Tarek back to the bivouac with our service trucks, however we can't assess the damage until it is here. We are still not sure whether Dieter can continue, but we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts so that the 'chase car' designed vehicle can remain in the competition."