Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dakar Rally Update: Stage victory for Volkswagen

Volkswagen continues to persevere after their crippling loss that put took out of the running. Now, Volkswagen strives for stage victories instead of an overall victory which seemed so close just a few stages ago. On the twelfth stage, Volkswagen was able to pull off a 1-2 stage victory, with the Sainz/Périn pairing taking first and Sousa/Schultz taking second. In terms of overall standings, however, the Miller/Pitchford pairing moved up one after the twelfth to fifth place.

The thirteenth stage begins on the 19th from Kayes Mali to Tambacounda Senegal.

Jump for more Rally details.

Source: Volkswagen Motorsport
WOLFSBURG, Germany - One-two for Volkswagen on twelfth stage of the Dakar Rally: Factory driver Carlos Sainz (Spain) and co-driver Michel Périn (France) won the 484 kilometre stage from Ayoun-el-Atrous (Mauritania) to Kayes (Mali) in their Race Touareg.

They clocked up a lead of 3:53 minutes over their Volkswagen comrades Carlos Sousa/Andy Schulz (Portugal/Germany) who drive a Race Touareg for Lagos-Team. It was Volkswagen's seventh stage win and the third for double Rally World Champion Carlos Sainz during the 29th running of the "Dakar”. Third position went to the French Mitsubishi driver and last year's overall winner Luc Alphand.

Even though today's twelfth stage held many pitfalls in store for the teams because of the tricky navigation and dense, tall bushes, the Volkswagen factory pairing of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) moved up the leader board after finishing eighth today. The duo overhauled two-time "Dakar” winner and Mitsubishi factory driver Hiroshi Masuoka from Japan in the overall standings, and are now best placed Volkswagen team in fifth position. Sousa/Schulz are still seventh, Sainz/Périn moved up one position to ninth. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany) finished the day in twentieth position in their Race Touareg, 25:47 minutes behind the winner owing to a navigational error, but nevertheless still hold twelfth overall. Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi/France) holds the overall lead.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"We are satisfied with the one-two from Carlos Sainz and Carlos Sousa on today's stage. The drivers were excellent; their co-drivers mastered a difficult task supremely since the navigation was difficult in this confusing terrain. It's great to see that the Race Touareg can record top-times on this type of route. Unfortunately, Giniel and Dirk lost time due to a navigational error. On the remaining stages we want to continue to show that the Race Touareg can post the fastest times, that our drivers are the best, and that the team continues to work efficiently and reliably even after twelve tough days and nights all the way to the finish line.”

#301 – Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 22nd place (leg) / 12th position overall
"That really wasn't our day, particularly as we got completely lost after 200 kilometres. We followed some motorbike tracks, before arriving at a cliff. The motorbike riders got through a narrow gorge, but not us. We had to turn around. So we lost 25 minutes to the leaders.”

#303 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place (leg) / 9th position overall
"It wasn't only the navigation that was demanding today. Driving on the narrow tracks between the trees was anything but easy. Sometimes the bushes covered the track so we had to plough through them, which is why the body is a little scratched. The car ran well. I'm delighted to have set the best time, which should go to the team as they worked fantastically.”

#305 – Mark Miller (USA), 8th place (leg) / 5th position overall
"The navigation made that a very difficult stage. We didn't see any tracks from the cars in front. We stopped three times to remove grass from the cooler, during which Carlos Sainz, Carlos Sousa and Stéphane Peterhansel passed us. We got lost once and had to search a little. I hit some debris hidden in the grass just before the finish. The left-hand front tyre lost air, but we reached the finish.”

Snippets from Volkswagen bivouac

- Check list: When a Car-Chief and four mechanics start work each evening to repair and service a Race Touareg they follow a precisely planned check list. "About 80 points must be checked every evening. From fluid levels to driveshafts – just like a major service”, explains Kris Nissen, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. The service schedule for every single component is recorded in a catalogue. The mileage intervals to ensure that specific components such as driveshafts or brake discs are changed in time are also included.

- Personal preferences: The Dakar Rally is known to many for its endless days and huge amounts of work. Now and then there are times when there is nothing to do, for team members, for example, who sit behind the driver and co-driver in the service vehicles on the liaison stages. "We usually take it in turns to drive and navigate”, explains physiotherapist Alexander Haus. "I usually sleep on the rear seat when it's my turn to take a break, even if the type of track doesn't make things so easy.” One sleeps, the other reads. "Because there aren't any daily newspapers in the bivouac, I brought some books with me”, explains electrician Jens Suhm. "I've been able to get through get a lot.”

Three questions to François Verbist, Race-Truck driver for the Volkswagen factory team

You are the youngest Race-Truck driver participating in this year's Dakar Rally. What is the attraction to compete in the Truck classification?
"The fascination was to drive for a top team. As Race-Truck we are a part of the project. Our job is to support the Race Touareg 2 and, in doing so, Volkswagen, which means giving a helping hand where help is needed.”

What is the most difficult task at the wheel of a Race-Truck?
"The days are very long. We are usually on the road for anything between ten and twelve hours. By the time we get to the bivouac the rest of the team is long since there. We then work on the truck and service the car assigned to us, there is always something to do. We have to check and refuel the car. After all, we have to start the next stage with a truck that runs perfectly.”

On the one side you compete in the Truck class, and on the other you play the role of fast and reliable helper for the team. Just how important are the results in the truck class?
"Our start time is based on the previous day's finishing order, just like the cars. That's why it's important for us to reach the finish quickly and safely to be able to start early. This was of great importance for the marathon stage, during which we are the only team members who are allowed to help the Race Touareg drivers in the bivouac. In general, the three Volkswagen Race-Trucks have been running extremely well until now.”

Standings after stage 12, Ayoun-el-Atrous (MR) – Kayes (ML); 257/484 km stage 11/total

Pos.; Team; Vehicle; Stage 12; Total time
1. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h07m15s (6th); 40h42m34s
2. Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h03m48s (3rd) + 6m29s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser/Arnaud Debron (F/F); Schlesser Buggy; 3h10m27s (10th) + 1h34m02s
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Alain Guehennec (QT/F); BMW X3; 3h05m06s (4th) + 1h58m04s
5. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h09m03s (8th) + 2h15m55s
6. Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (J/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h22m21s (19th) + 2h27m10s
7. Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h02m49s (2nd) + 5h16m21s
8. Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA); Hummer H3; 3h17m18s (13th) + 7h02m57s
9. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 2h58m56s (1st) + 7h37m40s
10. Stéphane Henrard/Brigitte Becue (B/B); Buggy Volkswagen; 3h18m33s (17th) + 7h51m39s
12. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h24m43s (22nd) + 8h45m47s

Coming up…

Friday, 19 January, Kayes (ML) – Tambacounda (SN): 260 km stage/458 km total. After crossing the border between Mali and the Senegal, the Dakar Rally's third from last stage leads across stony paths before sprinting along fast laterite tracks. The rally armada erects the final bivouac in Tambacounda in the evening.


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