Carlos Sainz leads with Volkswagen
Wolfsburg (02 January 2011). The Dakar Rally started with the first stage win for Volkswagen. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) are leading the desert classic in the Volkswagen Race Touareg 3 after the first of 13 legs by 1m 31s ahead of X-raid BMW driver Stephane Peterhansel. The team colleagues of last year's winners made a good showing on the 788-kilometre stage between Victoria and Cordoba in Argentina as well. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) finished the gravel stage in rain as the third-best contenders with a gap of 2m 16s. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) followed in fourth place with a 4m 17s gap. The Volkswagen foursome at the front of the field was completed by Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in fifth place overall and a gap of 5m 06s.
As many as three thunderstorms made the passage of the first leg a slippery endeavour. The 222 kilometres of the first special stage out of the total distance of 5,020 turned into gushing streams of mud and water. The main task of the four pairings in the Race Touareg 3 was to get their vehicles through the demanding gravel passages with slopes up to an altitude of 1,000 metres above mean sea level quickly and unharmed. In view of the many boulders alongside the road even small mistakes could have easily meant the end of the race.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"Today we experienced a superb performance of our drivers and co-drivers. The cars are perfectly prepared. I'm happy to see all of our team members working with absolute concentration at the start of the rally and not allowing themselves to get distracted by the huge crowd nor by the pressure caused by the expectations of the journalists. The conditions on the first leg were very difficult due to the large amount of water on the track. It's hard to judge who was most heavily affected by this. With four cars among the top five Volkswagen experienced a tremendous start. Obviously, we're going to continue our work on Monday and on the following legs highly motivated in order to master the upcoming tasks."
#300 - Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
"We were in for a tough stage right at the beginning of the Dakar Rally. After about 30 kilometres we hit a heavy rain shower on the special stage. Although we used the fastest delay control setting for the wipers, they weren't able to displace the large amount of water. Then the rain disappeared as quickly as it had come. Afterwards we encountered soft gravel. Obviously it's great to open the 'Dakar' with the fastest time on a special stage but it doesn't mean anything at this point in time."
#302 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 3rd place leg / 3rd place overall
"The opener to the first 'Dakar' special stage was promising. We found a good pace but then heard a suspicious noise and decided to proceed with caution during the remainder of the stage. I'm sure that nothing was damaged on the Race Touareg 3 because the car is much too reliable for that to have happened. Still, we'll check on the noise during the service. On the first day of such a long rally you can lose more than you can win. All in all, I'm pleased because our gap to our team colleague Carlos Sainz isn't too large."
#304 - Mark Miller (USA), 4th place leg / 4th place overall
"Like last year, we went into the first special stage as though we'd stiffened up. In other words, we were a little too cautious again. Afterwards, we were caught right in the middle of the thunderstorm. At home in Colorado we've got such rain storms where you can't see the hand in front of your eyes. That's the way it was here today. It was so slippery that my co-driver Ralph Pitchford kept shouting that I shouldn't slide into the rocks at the edge of the road. That was more than a piece of hard work. Last year we lost about six minutes on the same special stage, this time it was only a little over four - so we've improved."
#308 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 5th place leg / 5th place overall
"We were caught by thunderstorms as many as three times today. And that wasn't just rain but really a feeling like doomsday. The track became increasingly slippery and we lost time to the drivers who had started in front of us. Even though we were still looking for our rhythm on the first few kilometres, I'm relatively pleased - because our biggest gap was caused by sections that were soaked by rain and extremely slippery. But it's nothing we couldn't recover during the next twelve legs."
Number of the day
During the preparation for the Dakar Rally the valves in the 2.5-litre TDI engine of a Race Touareg 3 cover a total distance of 5,985 kilometres . This distance even exceeds the entire special stage distance of the car at the 2011 "Dakar". This mileage is achieved in a 150-hour endurance run on a test rig.
From the Volkswagen bivouac
Four absolutely identical Race Touareg cars - almost The four Volkswagen Race Touareg 3 cars were prepared to be absolutely identical in terms of their technology prior to the 2011 Dakar Rally. Thanks to an optimised preparation process the 310-hp cross-country rally prototypes correspond to each other down to the last bolt and its fastening torque. Nevertheless there is one detail in which they differ. The car driven by Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz designated as number 308 is special for 2011. At the 2011 "Dakar" the South African-German duo for the first time advertises "Red Bull mobile" - a mobile communications offering by the energy drink manufacturer in South Africa, among others.
New rules for the "Blue Angels"
At the 2011 Dakar Rally new rules apply to the race trucks which are being used as assistance vehicles. Unlike the nine service trucks of the Volkswagen teams that cover the support route the MAN race trucks of Dieter Depping and Francois Verbist are fielded as regular entrants in the truck classification. This means that they are covering exactly the same route as the four Race Touareg cars in order to be able to provide technical assistance to them in case of an emergency. In 2011 Volkswagen's "Blue Angels" have to start to their special stage after the entrants in the regular categories - irrespective of the results of the previous day. Another change: If one of the "RT3" crews should request assistance from Depping or Verbist the fast assistance trucks are now able to rush to the scene by taking the direct route and even omitting the way points that are normally prescribed.
Coming up next...
Monday, 03 January: The farmland shapes the second leg as well. This special stage, which runs between the agricultural fields of the region, is characterised by partially fast dirt roads on the one hand and open terrain on the other. At the end of the stage between Cordoba and San Miguel de Tucuman the area is marked by an increasing amount of construction. Tucuman is considered the most densely populated province of Argentina.