Volkswagen enters second half with 1-2-3-4 win and 1-2 lead
Wolfsburg (07 January 2011). With a 1-2-3-4 stage win on the sixth leg Volkswagen bids farewell to the first half of the Dakar Rally for the well-deserved rest day on Saturday. At the mid-point of the world's toughest rally the Wolfsburg-based squad maintains the top two positions overall with the Race Touareg 3.
But the competition is staying on the heels of the two leading Volkswagen factory drivers, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), because a battle between three rivals again dominated the action at the front of the field. X-raid BMW driver Stephane Peterhansel had been leading part of the sixth leg from Iquique to Arica before dropping back due to punctures. The two quickest Volkswagen duos subsequently fought a fair duel on the 456-kilometre stage, which has been the second-longest one so far. Like yesterday, the decision was only made on the final kilometres of the special in the barren Atacama Desert in which so-called fesh fesh - a powder-like sand that makes up the ground - made the conditions considerably more difficult.
After Peterhansel's time loss Sainz took the lead. But then Al-Attiyah on the final 100 kilometres temporarily converted a gap of 1m 27s into a 14-second advantage. Yet in the end Sainz secured his fifth stage win with the Race Touareg. After 4h 53m of driving time the Spaniard reached the finish a mere nine seconds in front of his team-mate Al-Attiyah who thus again bumped Stephane Peterhansel from second place overall.
Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) finished the stage in third place. The 2009 "Dakar" winners continue to rank in fourth place overall. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) completed the 1-2-3-4 stage result of the TDI-powered Race Touareg, moving up to sixth place in the overall standings.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"The 1-2-3-4 stage win is a fantastic result. The entire Volkswagen squad did everything right today. I want to express my sincere thanks to all of them. Now the team would have deserved a break. But like every year there will be a lot of work to do on the upcoming rest day. During this important service the cars will be prepared for the second half of the rally with new parts. To be in front in the end we first have to defeat the 'Dakar' and then our rivals."
#300 - Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
"What a tough day. Today the fesh fesh was the dominant soil. But like all the previous 'Dakar' legs this stage offered plenty of variety. On a stony section I had to stop to change a tyre. I had closed the gap to my team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah who had started in front of me. But in his dust I failed to notice a hidden stone. Apart from this minor misfortune it was a really good day for my co-driver Lucas Cruz and me."
#302 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place leg / 2nd place
"It's incredible how close the race was again today. My team colleague Carlos Sainz won the stage in front of us with a razor-thin margin. So for Volkswagen it was more than a good day. We drove with a little more caution on the stony sections to avoid the risk of a puncture. That paid off. As it looks, Carlos and I are battling for victory at the moment. But you can never be sure at the 'Dakar'. In any case, in second place we'll have a good position for the day after the rest day to attack and to hopefully manage a good start into the second rally week."
#304 - Mark Miller (USA), 4th place leg / 6th place overall
"Fesh fesh, all over the place we saw fesh fesh. Today was extremely strenuous and we've earned tomorrow's rest day through another day of hard work. On the many blind hilltops we didn't want to risk as much as the top three duos did. That's where we lost a bit of time. Then, towards the end of the leg, we suffered a slow puncture. All in all, I'm glad that this extremely demanding leg is over now, and look forward to the second 'Dakar' week."
#308 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 3rd place leg / 4th place
"I don't think I've ever seen as much powder-like sand on a single leg as I did today. I think we had a good pace although I didn't tackle the blind hilltops as boldly as some of the teams who started in front of us. At one of the dune crossings we had to make an evasive manoeuvre. We came out a little too far on the left and it took some doing there to find the route again. Then, on a stony section at the end of the stage, we suffered two punctures within five kilometres. That was unfortunate - but on the whole I'm pleased with our performance."
Number of the day
With the Race Touareg vehicles of Carlos Sainz, Giniel de Villiers and company Volkswagen, before the rest day, continues to have all four cars in the race that were entered. Before reaching Buenos Aires they could be logging about 20,000 additional kilometres of special stages. Since 2004 all Race Touareg cars combined have completed 325,537.5 kilometres of special stages, and 111,147 of them at the Dakar Rally. The addition of the total times of all finishes reveals that the drivers and co-drivers of the Wolfsburg-based brand were out for 86 days, one hour, 14 minutes and twelve seconds, not counting the times of the current "Dakar".
Did you know that ...
... in the Race Touareg 3 a total of 14 fans , of which 13 are electrically and one hydraulically operated, are used? They assure the required air flow for the intercooler, the radiator, the driver and co-driver plus the gearbox and the windscreen, among other things.
... the drivers and co-drivers receive beverages specifically mixed for them every day? The liquid energy sources contain minerals, electrolytes and trace elements . Aromas are added for flavour. The preferred choices of the Volkswagen drivers: citrus and blood orange flavours.
... that Volkswagen has even made provisions for servicing the support vehicles at the Dakar Rally? In addition to the factory team, which also travels in the PanAmericana Multivan, the organiser A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation) has opted for the Volkswagen Amarok as the official vehicle. In total, 66 vehicles of the Wolfsburg-based brand have been deployed. To assist in case of emergencies, a truck with spare parts and a small service crew is part of the convoy that travels from bivouac to bivouac.
Coming up next...
Saturday, 08 January: As most of the Dakar Rally's participants are extremely busy on that day the term "rest day" is misleading. The drivers and co-drivers of the top teams take on the onrush of the media while the mechanics experience their hardest "Dakar" workday. Before the second half of the rally nothing is left to chance and the vehicles are subjected to the most extensive maintenance during the gruelling desert tour.
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.