Stage victory for de Villiers - Al-Attiyah extends overall lead
While Volkswagen factory drivers Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) recorded their first stage win on the tenth of 13 legs, their team mates established themselves clearly at the top of the Dakar Rally leader board.
The duo increased their advantage in the overall standings to 12 minutes 37 seconds on the difficult dune filled stage from Copiapo in Chile to Chilecito in Argentina. Last year's winners Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) follow in second place.
Dramatic scenes unfolded among the notorious white dunes close to Fiambala: Nasser Al-Attiyah initially led the stage before Stephane Peterhansel in the X-raid-BMW took control. Then Nasser Al-Attiyah transformed a 2 minute 30 second deficit into a 1 minute 18 second advantage at the highest point of the route in a dune mountain range. However, approaching the end of the stage, between the fifth and sixth way points, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz caught the leader unawares by selecting the cleverest route -- and thus took a sensational victory on the day. Dirk von Zitzewitz immediately found the right direction at a junction and did not follow the tracks left by Peterhansel. Nasser Al-Attiyah dropped back to fourth place on the day's stage losing a total of 8 minutes 54 seconds. As Carlos Sainz even lost 18 minutes 13 seconds on the stage Al-Attiyah was able to extend his overall lead. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) lost 1 hour 4 minutes 18 seconds on the stage, but remains fifth overall.
Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) completes Volkswagen's one-two-three in the standings behind Al-Attiyah and Sainz.
The tenth stage took competitors from Chile back to Argentina again. In the process the teams scaled the rally's highest point -- the 4,725 metre high Paso San Francisco.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"A very short stage which was incredibly dramatic and very difficult. The navigation was anything but easy and the sand very soft. No driver pair got through today without small mistakes. The Race Touareg 3 has once again mastered the challenging conditions in great style. I'm delighted that Giniel and Dirk won this difficult stage."
#300 -- Carlos Sainz (E), 5th place leg / 2nd position overall
"That was an absolutely catastrophic day for us. We got bogged down on a dune after only five kilometres. On top of this came a puncture later. We got lost several times, especially at the end of the stage when we didn't find the correct exit from a river bed. Furthermore we damaged the gearbox, which also slowed us down. So, all in all it could have been better. But also worse: The deficit in the overall standings is not unassailable. We'll give our utmost up until the final metre to try and win."
#302 -- Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 4th place leg / 1st position overall
"The start of the stage went really well for us. We quickly found our rhythm and rapidly overtook our team mate Carlos Sainz, who had got bogged down on a dune. We drove at a good pace to the end. Unfortunately we didn't find the right way immediately and looked where all the top teams had looked for the route. Only our team mates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz were cleverer than everybody else. Congratulations on winning the stage."
#304 -- Mark Miller (USA), 8th place leg / 5th position overall
"A challenging day for man and material. To start we did everything right, my co-driver Ralph Pitchford directed us perfectly to the way points. Unfortunately we emerged over the crest of a dune with too little momentum and got bogged down. All in all it was, however, a really good but tough 'Dakar' stage. It could have been quite a bit different today with a little more luck."
#308 -- Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 1st place leg / 3rd position overall
"Today was our day. I think that I did just as good a job as my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz. However, at the end his stroke of genius made all the difference. It's fabulous also to finally win a stage in this 'Dakar', even though it came a little later than I'd hoped. On the way there were plenty of difficulties to overcome. You had to keep an eye on the engine temperature, every one of the top teams got lost at least once. On top of this sand, sand and more sand which was very soft. The final part was a real labyrinth of washed our river beds and canyons. A lot of teams will still be searching for the right way there today."
Number of the day
On the section between Copiapo and Chilecito Volkswagen contested its 100th "Dakar" stage since the first prototype's first event in 2004.
Sailing ace Russell Coutts visits Volkswagen factory team
High-ranking visit from the high seas: The four-time America's Cup winner, multiple sailing World Champion and Olympic winner Russell Coutts was shown the Volkswagen bivouac from Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mark Miller. In Copiapo in Chile, actual Dakar Rally rest day for the mechanics, the 48-year old New Zealander made a flying visit during the service after the ninth stage.
Local hero and favourite together: Mine worker meets Al-Attiyah
A special moment for both: Volkswagen factory driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, "Dakar" overall leader, was given a surprise visit in the bivouac after the ninth stage. Luis Urzua, shift manager for the miners trapped in San Jose north of Copiapo in autumn 2010, got an impression of the Volkswagen factory team in his hometown Copiapo. Urzua, the 33rd and last rescued, was impressed. "Just like us miners a team in the 'Dakar' also works hand in hand. It's fantastic to rub shoulders with the team members and see the rally in my hometown," said the 54-year old. "To be able to meet Nasser Al-Attiyah one of the favourites was incredible."
Coming up next...
Thursday, 13 January: The Dakar Rally competitors have to contend with the final stage dominated specifically by deep, anthracite coloured sand in the section between Chilecito and San Juan. Soft powder sand, known in local vernacular as "Guadal" and similar to Fesh-Fesh in Africa, makes demands of man and equipment as well as the stony and bumpy sections that are extremely demanding on the suspension.