Central Europe: Volkswagen final stage summary

Volkswagen starts to new era with victory -- Sainz triumphs Overall victory for Carlos Sainz, a podium position for Dieter Depping as well -- and seven of seven stage wins: Volkswagen started to a new era of cross-country rally sport at the ...

Volkswagen starts to new era with victory -- Sainz triumphs

Overall victory for Carlos Sainz, a podium position for Dieter Depping as well -- and seven of seven stage wins: Volkswagen started to a new era of cross-country rally sport at the Central Europe Rally through Hungary and Romania with a great exploit. After previously clinching four stage wins at the new rally run by the Dakar Rally's organisers, the Volkswagen factory pairing of Carlos Sainz/Michel Perin (E/F) won the last of the total of seven specials as well, relegating Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi) to second place overall by 2.01 minutes. A third-place finish was the overall rally debut result claimed by Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) in the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 powered by an innovative TDI diesel. The German duo set the day's second-best time on the final stage from Veszprem (Hungary) to Balatonfured (Hungary), thus capturing a podium place in the duel with Luc Alphand (Mitsubishi).

At the Central Europe Rally, whose special stages covering over 1,000 kilometres and a total distance of about 2,600 kilometres resembled the first legs of the Dakar Rally in recent years, Volkswagen won all seven stages, thus remaining undefeated in Hungary and Romania. The final leg saw the unfolding of a real thriller, with Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel fighting - as on previous stages - for overall victory with merely seconds separating them. The race for third overall - rather untypical for cross-country rally events - was about seconds as well: Dieter Depping, stage winner on the second day, kept the upper hand on the final, 155-kilometre special stage, with a 54-second lead over Luc Alphand.

The third Race Touareg that was still in the race captured a top position too: Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D) finished fifth overall in the vehicle fielded by the Lagos customer team. However, for the two factory duos Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA) and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D), the Central Europe Rally, ended prematurely after roll-over accidents on the first and fifth leg, respectively.

For the Race Touareg powered by a 280-hp, 2.5-litre TDI diesel engine, this marked the eighth overall victory in 22 cross-country rally events since 2004. In addition, the vehicle has a tally of 68 stage wins and 55 days of being the lead vehicle in the field.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)

"The Central Europe Rally was the toughest and most thrilling rally we've ever contested. It was great advertisement for this sport and a good start to a new era. With overall results in first, third and fifth place against extremely fierce competition, we're more than happy. They show the potential of the Volkswagen Race Touareg as well as the fact that we were perfectly prepared for the 2008 Dakar Rally as a serious contender for victory."

#201 - Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place (leg) / 1st place overall

"I'm incredibly happy about this victory. Recovering over eight minutes after our problem on the second day in this high-calibre field was a tough job. But exploits like this are always a result of teamwork as well. I have to thank Volkswagen Motorsport, my mechanics and, first and foremost, my co-driver Michel Perin from the bottom of my heart. With all of us working together, we did an outstanding job."

#201 - Michel Perin (F), co-driver

"Having won this tough competition is an incredible feeling. The Central Europe Rally was tricky, particularly in terms of navigation. We had a problem on the second day, which cost us a lot of time. After that, we had to go flat out on every kilometre. Carlos did a fantastic job in this respect. I think Volkswagen deserved winning this rally."

#203 - Giniel de Villiers (RSA), retirement

"I think the concept of the Central Europe Rally is good. It's amazing what the organiser A.S.O. has put together within only a few months. And I think that by clinching victory, Volkswagen has shown how strong the Race Touareg is. It's a shame, though, that we were forced to retire. That was neither a technical nor a driving mistake - just plain bad luck. Our roll-over accident on the fifth leg shows that in this sport your race can be over within tenths of a second, but it also showed that we can rely on the safety of our car."

#203 - Dirk von Zitzewitz (D), co-driver

"I look back on the rally with mixed emotions because I think Giniel de Villiers and I proved two things: the Race Touareg - considering our stage win - is a quick vehicle and, considering that our roll-over accident had no serious consequences, it is a safe car. Honestly, though, I could have done without this kind of proof."

#206 - Mark Miller (USA), retirement

"This rally was not only the start to a new era of our sport. For me, personally, it has also been the first competition with the Race Touareg in many months. So I started to the event particularly motivated and was all the more disappointed after my accident on the very first leg, which ended my race. In a right-hand bend the car went out of control and rolled over. I would definitely have liked to give my mechanics a better start to the rally."

#206 - Ralph Pitchford (RSA), co-driver

"This rally reminded me of the first legs of the 'Dakar' in recent years. The track characteristics with lots of dirt roads, quick, wooded sections as well as soft ground resembled the legs in Portugal. With lots of branch-offs, the navigation was demanding, because making a mistake at those junctions could cost you a lot of time. Unfortunately, this rally was over for us much too early."

#209 - Carlos Sousa (P), 9th place (leg) / 5th place overall

"Volkswagen can be very satisfied. Positions one, three and five at this tough rally - that's a superb result. We weren't always able to keep the pace of the front runner runners but our strategy worked out anyway. With a consistent performance, but without taking any risks, we smoothly finished the event. Fifth overall is a perfect result for us."

#209 - Andreas Schulz (D), co-driver

"This rally was definitely no walk in the park. As at the 'Dakar', the competition was extremely fierce. Fifth place in this field of big names is really a good exploit. The navigation was very demanding on the first legs. I'm very happy with this result."

#213 - Dieter Deping (D), 2nd place (leg) / 3rd place overall

"Fantastic! I'd have never expected third place before the rally. At best, I'd been toying with the idea of a top-five result. But this really tops it all. On the last leg the race between myself and Luc Alphand was close once more, so I'm all the happier that I managed to confirm my result. But with a Race Touareg that was outstanding yet again, the technology made my job a lot easier."

#213 - Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver

"Clinching third place, that's an incredible feeling. Today everything was at stake and the suspense prior to the start was at an all-time high. But now the pressure's dropping and the only thing that's left is sheer joy. During the entire rally the navigation required full concentration. But the driver was put to an extreme test as well, considering these narrow gaps. Dieter simply did a fantastic job and withstood the pressure."

-credit: volkswagen-motorsport.info

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Dieter Depping , Andreas Schulz , Stéphane Peterhansel , Carlos Sousa , Giniel de Villiers , Michel Périn , Timo Gottschalk , Ralph Pitchford , Kris Nissen
Teams Volkswagen Motorsport