Volkswagen at the "Dakar": with a 1-2-3-4 win and 1-2 lead into the rest day
Wolfsburg (08 January 2011). The Volkswagen drivers went into the rest day of this year's Dakar Rally with a 1-2-3-4 win. After the victories in the first week the score in the duel with the X-raid BMW team is now 5-1 to Volkswagen. After six legs through Argentina and Chile Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) are leading by 2m 42s in front of their team colleagues Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D). After 1,925 of the 5,020 kilometres against the clock Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F) in the X-raid BMW are Volkswagen's fiercest rivals. Their gap amounts to 14m 51s - a time as short as the blink of an eye at the Dakar Rally. Four out of six possible stage wins so far went to Sainz/Cruz and one each to Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk and Peterhansel/Cottret. The leading trio is followed within a striking distance by two other Volkswagen factory duos: Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in fourth and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in sixth place overall.
Yet the rest day of the "Dakar" is anything but a day for lazing around. The mechanics intensively prepare the vehicles for the second week of the "Dakar". After the joint press conference the drivers, co-drivers and team management will present the Volkswagen bivouac to Chile's President Sebastian Piсera and subsequently be available to the media for interviews.
The first rally week offered the "Dakar" participants the variety which is typical for South America. The terrain changed several times a day between gravel passages, scree fields, solid clay soil, jungle sections and soft dune sand. On the sixth leg the Volkswagen drivers definitely earned their day of rest, which gives them the first chance to recuperate since the rally started on New Year's Day in Buenos Aires. Plenty of the powder-like sand that is called "guadal" in the national language (and is similar to Africa's fesh fesh) made this leg a particularly gruelling endeavour for "man and material". The Volkswagen duos finished this stage with a 1-2-3-4 victory.
The second half of the Dakar Rally will start on Sunday and Monday like a thunderbolt. A total of 611 timed kilometres on the seventh and 508 on the eighth leg are on the agenda. The tasks are as varied as they were in the first part of the "Dakar". Gravel, solid ground and lots of sand make sure that the participants will not suffer from boredom. The Dakar Rally ends on 15 January after the second crossing of the Andes and after thirteen legs when the teams arrive at the finish in Buenos Aires.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"On the rest day we can look back on six exciting 'Dakar' days that were successful for Volkswagen. The pace and the challenge are even higher than they were last year. Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret are doing a great job in the X-raid BMW, and our Volkswagen duos Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz plus Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk an even better one. We worked hard and delivered a strong team performance to clinch the one-two lead. The whole squad is doing an impeccable job. I'm proud of this. In total we've got four cars among the top six, which means we're in a good position for the second week of the rally. But we also know that we've achieved a lot but haven't won anything yet."
#300 - Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place overall
"On the whole, the first rally week went very well for us. Despite some rough stages the Race Touareg 3 ran without the slightest technical problems. We had the honour of being the stage winners a total of three times and the handicap of having to open the stage. My co-driver Lucas Cruz did a great job. Now, on the rest day, we've got to perfectly prepare for the second week. I know that I can rely on the work of my mechanics one hundred per cent. This gives me the backing for a tough second week."
#300 - Lucas Cruz (E), co-driver
"We've just finished a little less than 2,000 of the more than 5,000 kilometres of special stages. They were tough but next week the 'Dakar' will probably be showing its true face on even more occasions. I'm expecting many more sandy passages which don't make the work for the drivers and co-drivers any easier. We'll use the rest day to prepare as well as we can. The pace at the front is high - any mistake could mix up the order of the standings. The race continues to be thrilling."
#302 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place overall
"The situation with respect to the overall standings is no less exciting than it was last year. Quite the opposite is true. The battle between two has turned into a battle between three contenders. My team colleague Carlos Sainz and I enlarged our gap a bit. But these gaps are extremely small for a Dakar Rally. We've got to continue to stay concentrated and attack at the right moment. I'm really looking forward to the second 'Dakar' week."
#302 - Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver
"The first week passed quickly and I've got to admit that I'm a little relieved that it has. The battle at the front of the field is extremely fierce. Running at the necessary pace with a calculated risk isn't easy. The second week is equally interesting. Now the days are coming up on which we'll need to work out an advantage if we want to win the rally. Even though we've already got one week in our bones we need to maintain the energy and concentration that are needed to achieve our goal."
#304 - Mark Miller (USA), 6th place overall
"A less-than-perfect day that threw us out of contention for overall victory. That's our story at the Dakar Rally. Since then our task has changed. We want to help our team-mates as best we can to clinch the third 'Dakar' victory in a row. We need to stay close to the blue cars in front. The past few days have shown that we've got the right pace to do so. The day before today's rest day revealed that the time we set - down to nearly a second - was about the same as that of our team colleague Giniel de Villiers. I think taking this approach is exactly what's expected of us.""
#304 - Ralph Pitchford (ZA), co-driver
"The first week was extremely varied and I really enjoyed the third special stage in particular. Unfortunately, we didn't achieve the results we'd imagined. But I think that the toughest job is still ahead of us. The first two legs after the rest day are real humdingers. I'm looking forward to these tasks and another 'Dakar' week."
#308 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 4th place overall
"Actually, the first part of the Dakar Rally was going pretty well for us, even though I'd have wished to have been closer to the front-running duos. But my team colleagues Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah are running at a fast pace. Right at the beginning we lost the time on the first two stages that we're now lacking. But our performance on the three days before the rest day was good. We've still got more of a distance ahead of than behind us. We won't give up until the very end. That's why I'm looking forward to the upcoming seven legs."
#308 - Dirk von Zitzewitz (D), co-driver
"The first week of the Dakar Rally was a far cry from what Giniel de Villiers and I expected. On the first WRC-like stages we lost a lot of time and on the off-road sections we didn't do as well as we could have either. Our aim is clear: We want to attack again in the second half of the rally. Anything's still possible."
Number of the day
More than once around the globe: If the impellers of the turbocharger compressors in Carlos Sainz' Race Touareg 3 were made to revolve as many times as they have on the special stages up to the rest day, the total number of revolutions would amount to a distance of 53,668 kilometres. This equates to about 1.34 times the circumference of the earth.
Coming up next...
Sunday, 09 January: The seventh leg is one of the longest on the 2011 Dakar Rally calendar. The route leads along the coastal Cordillera with its numerous salt lakes. Foothills of the Atacama Desert extend all the way to Antofagasta - the destination of this stage. The challenges are manifold and the co-drivers can again shine with their skills and compass navigation.