Volkswagen continues to lead Dakar Rally with Carlos Sainz
Wolfsburg (06 January 2011). Volkswagen has maintained the lead with the Race Touareg 3 on the fifth leg of the Dakar Rally. In the overall standings Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) remain the front runners with an advantage of 2m 26s after the 459-kilometre leg in the north of Chile from Calama to Iquique. The stage win was secured for the first time by X-raid BMW driver Stephane Peterhansel in front of the two Volkswagen drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q) and Sainz. The Frenchman thus bumped Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) from second to third place overall in the rally's standings - a mere seven seconds separate the two duos.
As the winner of the previous day, Carlos Sainz had the difficult task of opening the leg and to leave the trails for his rivals to follow. Sainz was initially leading and then Peterhansel took the place at the front. The Frenchman extended his advantage up to 3m 45s some of the time. In the second half of the special with its extreme differences in altitude of more than 3,000 metres at the start down to sea level on the Pacific coast at the finish Al-Attiyah and Sainz made up ground again though. The gaps between the three drivers kept changing from one check point to the other by full minutes - the stage result remained open up to the finish. In the end Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk arrived 1m 24s behind stage winner Peterhansel. Sainz/Cruz were lacking 3m 15s to Peterhansel. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in another Race Touareg 3 reached the bivouac in fourth place, thus retaining fourth place overall. Their team-mates Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) followed by finishing the special in fifth place and improved by three places to position seven overall. At the end of the stage the drivers thrilled the fans with a spectacular 2,300-metre descent from a steep, 700-metre high dune - the famous Cerra Dragon - directly into the bivouac. On the near-32-degree steep downhill drive to the finish the cars achieved a speed of up to 220 km/h.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"Congratulations to Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret on their perfect day. Even though we're not in front in terms of the stage result we're more than pleased at Volkswagen. All four Race Touareg cars ran really well. It was difficult for our drivers and co-drivers to open the course today. After this long special stage three pairings continue to be in contention for victory. This is a nice, exciting and fair race. We're concentrating on continuing to do a good job in the days ahead. The 'Dakar' has only started in earnest today."
#300 - Carlos Sainz (E), 3rd place leg / 1st place overall
"This leg was extremely tough. It was difficult in terms of navigation, physically strenuous and rough on the material too. At the beginning of the special stage the roadbook wasn't accurate enough at one particular location. Being the first car out we got lost there and Stephane Peterhansel overtook us. About 100 kilometres later we were able to pass him again. In the last dune belt we lost some more time because we caught a motorcycle rider on a dune crest and reduced our speed a bit too much. Unfortunately, we got stuck there. But, on the whole, it was a good day for us."
#302 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 2nd place leg / 3rd place
"What an incredible day. We were able to reduce our gap to our team colleague Carlos Sainz today. I think that both of us, my co-driver Timo Gottschalk and I, did a good job today - even though we got lost in an area of broken ground due to the lack of clarity in the roadbook. The final shot for the finish was absolutely crazy. According to the engineers' data we were driving at a speed of 220 km/h there. But that's not the only reason why I'm really happy with the Race Touareg today. It was running perfectly today despite all the things it had to put up with."
#304 - Mark Miller (USA), 5th place leg / 7th place overall
"We had no punctures and didn't get stuck in the sand - and still lost a lot of time today. The navigation today was extremely demanding. After we caught up with our team-mate Giniel de Villiers - who'd apparently suffered a puncture - we got lost so severely in one place that we came out on the wrong side of a riverbed. To get on course again we had to drive back a long distance. In the end we did one loop too many in the dunes - that, I suppose, explains the loss in time."
#308 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 4th place leg / 4th place
"This was definitely a tough day. In the beginning the route was extremely rough and washed-out riverbeds put the material to a tough test. That's when we suffered a puncture and didn't change the tyre as quickly as we actually can. Our rivals took many risks today. We didn't want to do that at the end of the stage, which had a lot of hilltop jumps, and so we lost another minute. The shot for the finish compensated the participants for a rough leg. Flat out towards the Pacific - that's pure adrenalin."
Number of the day
A large selection for the Volkswagen engineers: Every damper of the Race Touareg 3 developed jointly with technology partner ZF Sachs can be adjusted in 65,536 different set-up variants, so-called characteristics combinations.
Three questions for Rainer Fleischmann, Head of the Electrical Systems Department
As head of the department, you are responsible, among other things, for the electrical systems of the Race Touareg 3. What does this mean in concrete terms on location?
"Generally speaking, the electrical systems affect all areas of the vehicles. For example, there are interfaces in the areas of the engine or the chassis. We provide the technological resources, such as for data logging, which are then used - in other words analysed - by other departments. In a manner of speaking, the electrical system is a type of nervous system of the Race Touareg 3. It is found in many details."
At the same time, you are the Team Director of Volkswagen Motorsport. What tasks does this role encompass?
"This scope of duties primarily concerns the definition of processes for individual steps and the process flow - on location at the Dakar Rally, among others. In terms of efficiency we have substantially enhanced our knowledge in this area in recent years and continue to develop our capabilities. If you watch our team at work while setting up the bivouac, for example, or servicing our vehicles, you can see that everything goes hand in hand. That's the result of this effort. I'm always overjoyed to see all the gears perfectly mesh again, as they do at this 'Dakar'."
The Volkswagen team has adopted a new process of electronic warehouse management and spare parts data acquisition. What is special about this approach?
"Some time ago we started looking for ways to capture and manage the spare parts which are transported on board of several trucks during the Dakar Rally in a central yet mobile database. This has the advantage of providing us with an overview of the current inventory on board of every truck. The new aspect at the 2011 Dakar Rally lies in the fact that the mileages of the exchanged parts are captured in detail. For this purpose every service truck is equipped with handheld scanners. They are used to capture a so-called data matrix, with which each spare part is marked, and can immediately display the desired information. This saves a lot of administrative work on location plus several weeks of work on material management lists during the follow-up activities of the rally at home."
Coming up next...
Friday, 07 January: The picture that characterises the sixth leg of the Dakar Rally for the participants is dominated by a barren desert landscape and poses a true challenge to the co-drivers. Plenty of off-road navigation using the roadbook and GPS through an uninhabited region with only few orientation points plus branching off mountain trails put the navigators to the test.