Volkswagen draw positive balance on 'Dakar' rest day Jutta Kleinschmidt third overall, two stage victories, temporary lead for Robby Gordon and Bruno Saby, all four Race-Touareg prototypes still in the competition -- Volkswagen can be...
Volkswagen draw positive balance on 'Dakar' rest day
Jutta Kleinschmidt third overall, two stage victories, temporary lead for Robby Gordon and Bruno Saby, all four Race-Touareg prototypes still in the competition -- Volkswagen can be justifiably satisfied with the results so far coming into the Dakar Rally's rest day in Atar, Mauritania.
Before the final week of this year's desert classic, in which 2,880 special stage kilometres, or better said, almost three-fifths of the classified distance still remain before the chequered flag is taken in Senegal on 16th January, a top finish is within the grasp of German Volkswagen works driver Jutta Kleinschmidt and her Italian co-driver Fabrizia Pons. With the Race-Touareg, powered by a 260 PS 2.5-litre five-cylinder TDI diesel engine, the speedy female duo improved their position from ninth to third after arriving in Africa on 2nd January, and which they have successfully defended since the sixth stage on Wednesday. Under the most gruelling conditions, such as in the sandstorm during the marathon-stage on Thursday, the German 'Dakar' winner from 2001 called on her huge experience and comprehensive desert knowledge to safeguard her chances with a controlled drive.
New signing Robby Gordon attracts attention wherever he goes. The US-American NASCAR Series star won the first and fourth stages with his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and proved his prowess in the desert with, for example, third position on the ninth day. On the sixth stage, 36-year old Gordon barrel-rolled but remained, just as his co-driver, uninjured and could continue in the competition after loosing a few hours. Just as Gordon, who headed up the leader board during the first two days and also on the fourth day, Bruno Saby, with his French compatriot Michel Périn, took the overall lead but was struck by a bout of bad luck at the end of the first real desert stage a day later, and lost a lot of time when he landed heavily after a jump and when he got bogged down. Saby/Périn in ninth place do however still hold a position in the top ten. The Finns Juha Kankkunen and Juha Repo lost their chances on the seventh stage when they severely damaged the Race-Touareg's suspension in tricky camel grass and lost 15 hours.
All four Race-Touareg prototypes have impressed till now through their incredible robustness and reliability and are, as before, still in the competition -- all this by a retirement rate of 48 percent in the field. During the remaining week of the rally, Kankkunen will, as he did on the ninth stage, support Saby, while Robby Gordon assists Jutta Kleinschmidt. As a result, the Volkswagen team led by Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen is well equipped for the last seven stages.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"We are satisfied as we have held the lead on three occasions, twice with Robby Gordon, and then with Bruno Saby. Robby's accident demonstrated just how sturdy the Race-Touareg is. All four cars are still in the competition. The event is very well organised, the start in Barcelona was fabulous. The rally will stay exciting till the finish."
#310 -- Jutta Kleinschmidt (D), 3rd position overall
"I'm happy that our Race-Touareg has run perfectly till now. We haven't had a single technical failure. The entire team is working brilliantly. Nevertheless, we still haven't completed half of the rally, and the tough stages are still to come. The trek around Atar on Monday will be particularly hard."
#307 -- Bruno Saby (F), 9th position overall
"After one week, I can say that I'm pleased with things. Up till now the rally has been very good for Volkswagen. The marque has shown that they will win one day. The Race-Touareg is excellent, the team also. The team has improved considerably since last year. Our goal is to finish as high as possible and to develop the car more."
#317 -- Robby Gordon (USA), 21st position overall
"The rally started very well. However, we pushed a little too hard, had the accident and got bogged down later and damaged the clutch as result. The Dakar is the hardest competition of my career. I'd like to win a few more stages and finish in the top 15 overall. And I want to win next year."
#313 -- Juha Kankkunen (FIN), 42nd position overall
"In 1988 during my first Dakar twice the distance was covered, but the rally was nowhere near as hard and demanding as this year. We drove for ages in complete darkness during the marathon-stage on Thursday. At that time the rally was organised so that even the privateers could finish the stage during the day,"