Volkswagen stage four report

Volkswagen narrowly wins day four of the "Dakar" Wolfsburg (6 January 2009). Volkswagen clinched a thrilling duel on the fourth leg of the Dakar Rally to win its second stage victory. Carlos Sainz/Michel Perin (E/F) in a Race Touareg fought it...

Volkswagen narrowly wins day four of the "Dakar"

Wolfsburg (6 January 2009). Volkswagen clinched a thrilling duel on the fourth leg of the Dakar Rally to win its second stage victory. Carlos Sainz/Michel Perin (E/F) in a Race Touareg fought it out with Nasser Al-Attiyah/Tina Thorner (Q/S) on today's route from Jacobacci to Neuquen in western Argentina. The Volkswagen duo ultimately gained the upper hand with a lead of six seconds in spite of experiencing a slow puncture on the last few kilometres of today's special stage, which differed from the last few days' routes due to trial-like sections, drives through dried-up riverbeds and a greater degree of off-road driving. Sainz now leads the famous desert classic for the third consecutive day and has increased his lead on the BMW X-raid driver to 3.46 minutes.

In their battle for the front position, Sainz and Al-Attiyah put more than two minutes between themselves and the third best team, which goes to show how intense the competition on today's 488-kilometre leg was. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) came in sixth today in their Volkswagen Race Touareg, defending their third place overall. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) achieved the fourth best time of the day on today's special stage, which went from an altitude of over 1,300 metres to just 300 metres above sea level. This means there are still three Volkswagen drivers in the top six in the overall rankings. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) came in eleventh in the fourth Race Touareg, 12.49 minutes behind Sainz/Perin, after having to make two stops for tyre changes along the way. Overall, the German pair have now improved their ranking by two places to 13th.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"Again, we can say that things went well for Volkswagen once more on day four. I'm immensely proud of the entire Volkswagen team, including the drivers, who have done a great job so far in this year's 'Dakar'. Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah are currently the fastest in the field, but all the other teams are still hot on their heels. After day four, I would say that so far, this has been one of the most exciting 'Dakars' ever. There's no doubt about it - bringing this rally to Argentina and Chile was a good idea."

#301 - Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
"Today was very exciting. During the special stage, we not only caught up with Nasser Al-Attiyah in the BMW, who started ahead of us, but also went on to even overtake him. Things became quite tight again towards the end after we suffered a slow puncture. We decided to press on without changing the tyre, but we did have to stop to pump it up again. And that did the trick: 0.8 bar was all that was left in the tyre at the finishing line and we had secured ourselves a six-second lead."

#305 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 6th place leg / 3rd place overall
"We had a very interesting day today. Things got off to a good start and all in all, everything was as good as perfect. We did lose our way briefly and found ourselves in a dead end. We then had difficulty getting back on course, and that cost us a few minutes. The Race Touareg has so far stood up admirably to everything that's been thrown at it. That's good to know, because the event is getting more difficult by the day and the biggest challenges of the rally are most certainly still to come."

#307 - Dieter Depping (D), 11th place leg / 13th place overall
"Today didn't go quite as well as the last few days. We forfeited twelve minutes in comparison to the leaders, but having suffered two punctures, I'm happy with this result nonetheless. Apart from upsets like that, which can happen again and again, the Race Touareg is running like clockwork."

#308 - Mark Miller (USA), 4th place leg / 6th place overall
"I'm more than happy with fourth place. It's been a great day! Because I'm sticking to my tactic of not taking too many risks during the initial special stages. The legs are already getting more and more demanding by the day, and the most difficult stretches are still to come. But with lots of rocks along the track, we didn't want to risk getting a puncture by driving too unrelentingly. We're focusing on keeping the top of the leader board within reach - and we achieved that today."

Three questions for Peter Utoft, Volkswagen Team Manager

This Dakar Rally is one of the biggest challenges the drivers and co-pilots can face. What is different about the "Dakar" in terms of organising the team?

"The mechanics and engineers have to deal with quite a marathon every day too. On average, the crews in the service vehicles cover about 800 kilometres every day. This entails setting off at 4.00 a.m. in order to be ready to service the rally vehicles at the next bivouac when they come in. This servicing work can easily last until midnight - so there's not much time for sleeping."

What minor adjustments can you make as the team manager in order to make things as comfortable as possible for the technicians and engineers?

"For maximum crew safety on the long service routes, we have stipulated that one team member per vehicle must get at least six hours of sleep. And then there is also a small crew that stays with the Race Touareg until just before the leg gets underway. A different crew does this every day - and this has the advantage that the crew in question can then have a longer sleep. But on the flip side of the coin, this means they also get to the next bivouac much later."

To what extent does good organisation play a part in the success of the rally drivers?

"Good team management involves making sure that each and every member of the crew is in the right place at the right time. It is also important to us that the mechanics are happy, and they can only be motivated in their work if they are able to get as much sleep as possible, get on well with the other team members and are also well fed by our very own chef. The individual work processes are also an important criterion and every member of the team needs to know what he should be doing in the bivouac. This is working in this year's team without the need for much to be said. So I would say that we have once again come on a long way in this area."

Coming up

Wednesday, 7 January: Leg 5, Neuquen (RA)-San Rafael (RA). The drive from Neuquen in the north-west to San Rafael in the province of Mendoza is perhaps the most challenging test in the first rally week of the "Dakar". The great distance to be travelled - 763 kilometres in total, of which 506 kilometres are against the clock - will call for a high degree of concentration and includes a 20-kilometre drive through sand dunes as well as off-road stretches along the "rios". The Andes will be visible on the horizon today.

The Dakar Rally on TV

7 January
05:30 - 09:00 hrs ARD ARD-Morgenmagazin
06:00 - 07:00 hrs RTL Punkt 6
09:00 - 09:55 hrs Eurosport Highlights (repeat)
10:45 - 11:30 hrs Eurosport Highlights (repeat)
18:45 - 19:05 hrs RTL RTL aktuell
19:15 - 19:30 hrs Eurosport Finish live
23:00 - 23:45 hrs Eurosport Highlights live
00:00 - 00:30 hrs RTL Nachtjournal
00:45 - 01:30 hrs Eurosport Highlights (repeat)

8 January
05:30 - 09:00 hrs ARD ARD-Morgenmagazin
06:00 - 07:00 hrs RTL Punkt 6
08:30 - 09:15 hrs Eurosport Highlights (repeat)
10:45 - 11:30 hrs Eurosport Highlights (repeat)
18:45 - 19:05 hrs RTL RTL aktuell
19:15 - 19:30 hrs Eurosport Finish live
23:00 - 23:45 hrs Eurosport Highlights live
00:00 - 00:30 hrs RTL Nachtjournal
00:45 - 01:30 hrs Eurosport Highlights (repeat)

-credit: vw

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Dieter Depping , Giniel de Villiers , Tina Thorner , Nasser Al-Attiyah , Michel Périn , Timo Gottschalk , Ralph Pitchford , Kris Nissen
Teams Volkswagen Motorsport