Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk increase gap to pursuers with stage victory
Wolfsburg (13 January 2011). The Volkswagen factory drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) increased their lead at the top of the Dakar Rally standings on the eleventh stage. On the section from Chilecito to San Juan they recorded their fourth stage victory this year in the Race Touareg 3 and benefited at the same time from the bad luck of their team mates Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E). Last year's winners from Spain dropped back due to damage on their car, but are still on course for a podium finish. New second placed duo is Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in another Race Touareg.
Carlos Sainz, up to now second in the overall standings, led the cross country rally's eleventh stage for almost 400 kilometres. Damage to the right-hand front suspension of his car then forced the Spaniard to stop and make repairs, during which last year's winner lost a lot of time. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) stopped in the stage to help their team mates under inhuman conditions. Sainz/Cruz dropped back to third overall due to the repair work, their team mates Miller/Pitchford fell to sixth position.
Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel in the X-raid-BMW reached the stage finish second 1 minute 13 seconds behind Nasser Al-Attiyah. The third best time went to yesterday's stage winner Giniel de Villiers. The 2009 "Dakar" Champion now sits 51 minutes 49 seconds behind Al-Attiyah in the overall standings.
Originally the eleventh stage at 622 kilometres would have been the longest of the entire rally. However, rain in the area around San Juan most recently caused deep erosion and new gorges. For safety reasons the organiser therefore cut 93 kilometres from the final section. As a result the distance dropped to 530 kilometres. To begin the teams crossed canyon terrain with plenty of bush vegetation at the foot of the Andes; afterwards they conquered a climb to over 3,200 metres before the stage ended at about 800 metres above sea level.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"A proverb in motorsport is - 'To finish first, first you have to finish'. Congratulations to Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk for their performance today. It was a very exciting day for everyone. Carlos Sainz suffered suspension damage. Mark Miller and Ralph Pitchford helped them with spare parts and energy and encouragement. I'm proud of the four as they completed the repair in record time. As a result we still lead the field with three Race Touareg cars. All in all a good day for Volkswagen.
#300 - Carlos Sainz (E), 14th place leg / 3rd position
"Today we really attacked and were about 25 seconds behind in the dust cloud kicked up by our team mate Nasser Al-Attiyah. This is a risky game and we knew this. Because of the dust we didn't see a hole which we slid into when we locked the brakes. The suspension broke. Luckily our team mates Mark Miller and Ralph Pitchford were directly behind us with spare parts and we could replace the destroyed components in record time in incredibly high temperatures. Thanks to Mark and Ralph's help we still managed to reach third place overall. I'm really thankful for this. But today I'm not only simply exhausted I also need a new body."
#302 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 1st place leg / 1st position
"A few days ago I planned to approach the job in hand as clever as possible to the finish. Today there were two stages during which you had to be wide awake. In the first part we looked after the material as well as possible so we would be in a good position in the second part. It paid dividends. And although we were driving rather cautiously we still won the stage at the end. We now have a comfortable advantage, but this doesn't mean anything if you don't arrive in Buenos Aires. I'm not wasting any thoughts about winning. After all there are still two extremely tough days ahead of us."
#304 - Mark Miller (USA), 11th place leg / 6th position
"The day began with us having to make difficult overtaking manoeuvres on the cars running in the dust in front of us. We did well under these conditions. Just after the start of the second part of the stage we came across Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz who had suffered suspension damage. We worked fantastically together and solved the problem as quickly as possible. Normally you need at least two hours for this, we managed it in one. But this is exactly why we are one team."
#308 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 3rd place leg / 2nd
"The second part of the stage was much harder than we had previously expected. The first part was also tricky. Many canyons and bushes meant plenty of work at the steering wheel. Owing to Carlos' problem we made good a place in the overall standings. I feel sorry for him as he'd drive an outstanding race so far. However, it also shows that anything can happen every day during this extremely tough rally. You have to be alert all the way to the finish. This is also exactly what my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and I plan to the finish in Buenos Aires."
Number of the day
The Race Touareg 3 is comprised of 5,535 individual parts. The parts list shows 4,911 components for the chassis and 624 individual parts for the powerful 310 hp 2.5 litre TDI engine.
Three questions to crew chief Ralf Arneke
As crew chief you are responsible for organising the Volkswagen mechanics. Is it difficult - especially towards the end of the "Dakar" - to keep the motivation high?
"Quite honestly it's actually relatively simple. We are in the comfortable position of being in front with three cars. You certainly don't need to motivate the relevant crews. The other two teams also do their job 100 per cent professionally every day."
Everybody in the Volkswagen team has at least to jobs to do. What exactly are your jobs?
"The job as crew chief is exceptionally easy here in the field. Everybody in the group knows what and how they have to do it. This is the result of good preparation and years of working together. At Volkswagen we have a very low turnover of staff, and even with the freelancers. This pays dividends for the complete routine. In the field I drive and organise the start-finish truck, which guarantees the final service on the service route and the first after every stage. In this case you are the one who can still change the smallest details before the stage."
In your opinion what makes the Volkswagen team into the best team at the 2011 "Dakar"?
"We have the best drivers, the most reliable material and the best group of mechanics. And then they don't even make a single mistake at the service. I'm bloody proud of the guys who have worked exceptionally well up to now. The work procedures are right, there are no panics. Up to now everything has run just as we imagined."
Coming up next...
Friday, 14 January: The day's stage between San Juan and Cordoba provides the participants with plenty of surprises. Sections in the Sierras Pampeanas where competitors must navigate through testing canyons and cross sharp stones as well as river beds and wide valleys carved in red rock are the sporting and scenic challenges in the twelfth stage.