Volkswagen maintains one-two lead on the "roof of the Dakar"
Wolfsburg (05 January 2011). Volkswagen continues to lead the Dakar Rally after clinching its fourth stage win in a row with two Race Touareg 3 cars. The fourth leg featured the extremely demanding crossing of the Andes at an altitude of more than 4,400 metres - including a plateau at an elevation of over 4,000 metres. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) extended their overall advantage by 50 seconds to 4m 24s. Their team colleagues Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) remain the runners-up. The two Volkswagen factory drivers also crossed the finish line of today's stage in this order.
The fourth day of the world's toughest desert rally was shaped by extreme physical strains for the entire team due to the crossing of the Andes and a nail-biting battle between Volkswagen and the Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel. The X-raid BMW driver had been leading the special, which had started at an altitude of 3,300 metres in the Atacama Desert, with nearly a one-minute advantage for some of the time but ultimately finished third with a gap of 1m 22s. Behind him the other two Volkswagen factory drivers, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), finished the stage in positions four and five. As a result, de Villiers continues to rank in fourth place overall. Miller improved by two positions and is now in the top ten again.
The leg between San Salvador de Jujuy and Calama was characterised by numerous canyons, riverbeds and quick gravel passages. Many branch-offs made the navigation a tricky proposition for the Volkswagen co-drivers. In addition, the teams had to be careful to avoid punctures on sharp stones and smaller fields of scree. Mission accomplished: None of the Volkswagen drivers had to change any of the BFGoodrich tyres.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"On the first special stage in the Atacama Desert our drivers managed a one-two win which makes me tremendously happy. It was the 125th stage win of a Race Touareg. I'm even happier about the fact that all four Race Touareg cars with our factory drivers handled this demanding special at this altitude so well. The entire team did a good job of dealing with these strains as well and is now tackling its regular chores of the day."
#300 - Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
"It was a quick 'Dakar' day that actually only started after a beautiful but incredibly long liaison stage. Today it was crucial not to suffer a puncture on the gravel stretches. We managed that. We've put another stage past us that ended successfully. It's good to continue to lead but we're only in Chile now, and that's where the rally really gets going."
#302 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place leg / 2nd place
"Today, opening the course as yesterday's stage winner was no advantage. We'd planned to lose less than one minute today and that plan worked out. More important yet is the fact that a long desert leg is coming up tomorrow, which our team-mate Carlos Sainz will open. So we'll be in the better position. In terms of the overall standings the situation is extremely close. The order at the top may change any day due to small mistakes or minor problems. The race remains thrilling. And I continue to be optimistic."
#304 - Mark Miller (USA), 5th place leg / 10th place
"Flat out all day - that was the situation throughout today's special. It was really hard to find the right way because motorcycle riders who had gotten lost were coming up from all sides. That always puts doubts in your mind. But my co-driver Ralph Pitchford did an outstanding job. At the end we caught Krzysztof Holowczyc who had apparently suffered a puncture. In his dust it was no longer possible to attack although we almost managed to overtake him once. On the whole, things were running well today. I wouldn't mind if it continued this way for the next few days."
#308 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 4th place leg / 4th place
"Today the right tactics consisted of restraint and attack at the right places. Even though we lost a bit of ground again I'm pleased with the result. In the next few days we'll go into the depths of the Atacama Desert and thus into the heart of the 'Dakar'. The tables may quickly turn there, including to our benefit. The navigation today wasn't easy. 'Well done' to my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz who did an outstanding job."
Number of the day
A special victory for the Race Touareg: Since the launch of the cross-country rally prototype programme in 2004 the stage win of Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz today marks the 125th stage win in total. At the Dakar Rally the fastest time set on the stage between San Salvador de Jujuy and Calama amounted to the 40th single success.
From the Volkswagen bivouac
XXL-size border crossing for the Volkswagen team
For the drive from San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina to Calama in Chile the Volkswagen logisticians had to consider a number of aspects. Due to the enormous altitude of the Paso de Jama, the plateau of which extends more than 4,000 metres above mean sea level over a distance of 240 kilometres, the vehicles of the factory squad from Wolfsburg carried a total of 15 oxygen bottles for medical emergencies on board. 55 tons of material had to clear customs. The service trucks and their cargo had been sealed as early as at the bivouac in San Salvador de Jujuy, and the forms plus the entry and exit stamps in the passports of the 72 team members prepared. Fresh foodstuffs were consumed in advance as their transfer to Chile is not permitted. A sufficient supply of diesel fuel plus drinking water is part of the normal preparations for the next rally day at the "Dakar" anyhow. A smooth border crossing was particularly important on the fourth leg today. The support vehicles were only allowed to take off after the last rally vehicle to ensure that they would not obstruct the rally vehicles' crossing of the border. Nevertheless, the support vehicles had to arrive at the bivouac in Calama to service the Race Touareg cars as quickly as possible.
Coming up next...
Thursday, 6th January: "If you roll over here, you won't come to rest before the bivouac, said an impressed "Dakar" winner Carlos Sainz in 2010 as he described the finish of the stage to Iquique. From the crest of the near-700-metre dune the stage finish and the Pacific Ocean can already be seen. The teams have to successfully master the roughly three-kilometre descent - braking prohibited - plus more than one minute of pure adrenalin after a strenuous day.