15 days to the 2011 Dakar Rally

"Dakar" 2011: This will be my highlight - Mark Miller

Volkswagen factory driver Mark Miller and his South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford are already looking forward to the 2011 Dakar Rally. The US American from Arizona has already contested the desert classic four times for Volkswagen since 2006. He has fond memories of the route on which the fifth stage is held in January 2011.

The 423 kilometre long stage from Calama to Iquique in northern Chile starts on bad, stony roads before crossing a salt lake field. "The organisers' information states that more than one hour is estimated for a very short stretch of just a few kilometres. So, we can expect a very tough opening to the stage," observes Mark Miller. "It's certainly relatively difficult to be more precise beforehand about this year's information. The organiser follows a different information policy than the years before. We can plan our routes even less than ever before."

The driver encounters wide, open ground without tracks further along the stage on 6 January 6. Almost 100 kilometres of this type of terrain must be mastered. "Our speed then obviously increases," expects Miller. "The biggest surprise, however, is found after the dune section right at the end: It's the downhill section to the bivouac." For somebody who has never seen any pictures of this descent the final kilometres of the fifth stage are best compared to a downhill ski slope. "I still remember just how incredibly steep the descent was last year," says Miller. "From the top of the dunes you can see the ocean and beach. Then you dive down the slope at 180 kmh. According to the organisers, the gradient is 32 per cent, and the slope is almost two-and-a-half kilometres long. Absolutely crazy! I've never experienced anything like this in my motorsport career. This descent is just compensation for all the obstacles and challenges that we previously had to overcome. A fantastic idea of the organiser's to include this spectacular section again this year. It's simply first-class for us in the cockpit, for the camera teams, the photographers and the spectators."

-source: vw