Volkswagen defends fourth overall at half distance.
Volkswagen and their Tarek successfully retained fourth position overall at half distance of the Rallye Telef?nica Dakar. Following the desert classics tenth stage, the teams have now completed 2759 of the 5257 kilometres run against the clock and as a result, more than half of the competitions distance. In view of the adverse circumstances the provisional success of Volkswagen is even more remarkable. Hiroshi Masuoka, today's winner, achieved an average speed of 138 kph on the route between Zilla and Sarir in Libya, while Jutta Kleinschmidt and co driver Fabrizia Pons still managed an average of 129.5 kph in the desert on their way to sixth position and best diesel engine team. "It really surprises me that we can keep up in spite of the very high speeds", explained the Dakar winner. "I was again quicker than Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Miki Biasion, my closest rivals in the overall classification, between the second and third time checks where we had to cross sand dunes."
In addition to the challenging navigation, because of the prohibition of the use of GPS information on the tenth of 17 stages, the weather also complicated matters. During the first 130 kilometres a sandstorm impeded the competitors vision. Even under these circumstances Volkswagen achieved two positions in the top ten, as St?phane Henrard and Bobby Willis, his co driver, set the eighth fastest time of the day's stage only 4 minutes 55 seconds behind their team colleagues. As a result, the Belgian and his Northern Irish co driver further strengthened their grip on ninth position in the overall classification.
"I am again impressed by the performance of both teams", explained Rudolf-Helmut Strozyk, director of Volkswagen Racing. "Neither the high speeds or the weather conditions were obliging today. The Tarek is not designed for extremely high speeds, and today's cross and tail winds were not ideal for the engine temperatures and therefore the engine's performance. The organiser announced that tomorrows stage should again be more challenging for the driver, before all participants earn a well deserved rest during the day off on Monday at the Egyptian oasis Siwa."