Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dakar Rally Update: Volkswagen loses lead in ninth stage

After leading for most of the first half of the Dakar Rally, Volkswagen has now lost the lead after the ninth stage. The results after the ninth are not good for Volkswagen. De Villiers/von Zitzewitz's Race Touareg 2 broke down due to an and is on its way to the bivouac for repair. It's the same story for Sainz/Périn, who's engine cut out and wouldn't start. Their Race Touareg 2 is also on its way to the bivouac.

As it stands, Volkswagen's top finishers are Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford in sixth and Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz in seventh. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn stands went down to tenth spot.

The tenth stage starts on the 17th, looping around Nema, Mauritania, as the route to Timbuktu was canceled.

Jump for complete Rally details.

Source: Volkswagen Motorsport
WOLFSBURG, Germany - After making an impressive start to the 29th Dakar Rally the Volkswagen team was dealt a cruel blow today: The factory duo Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany) started the ninth stage as leaders but, like their team mates Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France) in fourth place, were also stopped by a technical defect on the Race Touareg 2 during the ninth stage from Tichit to Nema in Mauritania.

A cam follower in the engine's valve train broke on Giniel de Villiers' car. A hole was punched in the valve cover as a result, and the escaping oil ignited on the hot turbocharger. The flames were doused immediately with the onboard fire extinguisher. The car is being towed back to the bivouac by one of the Race-Trucks. Carlos Sainz, who had led the stage comfortably, was slowed when his engine cut-out suddenly and refused to restart probably due to an electrical problem. He is also being towed to the bivouac.

Volkswagen had led the Dakar Rally convincingly from the start on 6 January in Lisbon until today, 15 January. The de Villiers/von Zitzewitz tandem held a 31 minute lead entering the ninth stage. Sainz/Périn only lost second overall on the eighth stage after a hydraulic steering hose chaffed through, and which left Sainz without steering assistance. Volkswagen was able to win six of the nine stages run to date.

Carlos Sousa/Andy Schulz (Portugal/Germany) in the Lagos Team Race Touareg and the factory pairing of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) ended the ninth stage in seventh and ninth positions respectively, each about half-an-hour behind the winner after sacrificing valuable time to help Sainz. In the overall classification, which is now led by Stéphane Peterhansel (France/Mitsubishi), Miller/Pitchford and Sousa/Schulz hold sixth and seventh positions.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"We were on the receiving end of a couple of hard blows today. However, it doesn't change the fact that I am extremely proud of the team. Everybody made a huge contribution to enable Volkswagen to lead the rally from the opening day and to get the better of Mitsubishi in direct competition – until yesterday. It's difficult for us to accept that we are no longer leading and that it is almost impossible to win now. You can win innumerable stages during this rally and must nevertheless only lose one to be the loser at the finish. This is the difference between the Dakar Rally and other competitions such as a football season, in which a single loss does not cost the championship. Our objectives now are to enable Giniel and Carlos to continue, to score as many good stage results as possible and to claim a tidy result at finish.”


#301 – Giniel de Villiers (RSA)
"We were leading the rally when a roller tappet in the valve train broke. It punched a hole in the cylinder head cover and the escaping oil momentarily caught fire. We were able to put the flash fire out with the onboard fire extinguisher. The damage couldn't be repaired on the stage, which is why we had to be towed-in by the Race Truck.”

#303 – Carlos Sainz (E), 94th place (leg) / 10th position overall
"The engine died and never restarted after we'd made a hard landing in a pothole. Mark Miller stopped to help, as did Carlos Sousa. The engine refused to fire up again even after we'd replaced the electronic components and tried to bump start it. So, the Race-Truck hitched us up.”

#305 – Mark Miller (USA), 10th place (leg) / 6th position overall
"We ran at an excellent pace, we overtook a Mitsubishi and a BMW and were lying third at the first time check point. When we came across Giniel, we stopped for about 30 seconds but he told us to continue. Later we followed Luc Alphand, but drove defensively – so, he had nothing to worry about. Then we made an inspired move: Carlos Sainz was shadowing us very closely. We let him past, what Alphand didn't notice, and so he let Carlos past by mistake because he thought that it was my car. Unfortunately, Carlos ground to a halt. We pulled up alongside him and worked for around 35 minutes trying to repair the car, we changed the ECU – all to no avail.”


Snippets from Volkswagen bivouac


- Physiotherapist in demand:
In addition to a doctor, three physiotherapists also travel with the Volkswagen team. Their healing hands were already much in demand after the rock strewn stages in Morocc The experts spent a good 30 to 45 minutes to knead each of the drivers and co-drivers back into shape. "The treatment helps to relax the muscles, improve the working of the joints and to reduce the pain induced through the loads experienced in the car”, explains physiotherapist Pierre Wack, who is living his first Dakar Rally with Volkswagen. "We also look after the hard working mechanics and Race-Truck crews when required.”

- Black and round: At the Dakar Rally Volkswagen have a total of 400 BFGoodrich tyres, all of which are pre-mounted on BBS rims. A wheel weighs 38 kilograms. In spite of the rocky North African tracks the factory drivers have managed to escape with only ten tyre failures. "Including all spare wheels, we only used 150 tyres up to the rest day”, explains Eduard Weidl, Technical Director of Volkswagen Motorsport.

- Tactics count: The Volkswagen factory drivers attend a Technical Meeting with their Race Engineers, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen, Technical Director Eduard Weidl and the Technical Adviser Jean-Claude Vaucard immediately after having arrived at the bivouac each afternoon. "These meetings are very efficient”, says Jean-Claude Vaucard. "We discuss plans for the following stage to allow us to be in a position to react better, rather than spend time talking about the day's events.”


Three questions to Christian Fellinger, Logistic Manager in the Volkswagen factory team

What is the biggest challenge from the logistical point of view during the Dakar Rally?

"Think about everything beforehand and having everything on-hand during the rally. The supply of spare parts and their quantities are specified by the technicians. My job is to distribute and transport these quantities so that they are at the right place at the right time when and where they are needed. To achieve this, I try to distribute the parts so that they are transported in various Service-Touaregs, T5 vans and trucks. I'm personally responsible for the drivers' bags, the equipment, tents and setting-up of the bivouac as well as the engineers and co-drivers office space.”

How much can you prepare, how often must you react?

"You have to prepare everything, so that you can react when something unforeseen happens. I have to run-through every conceivable procedure beforehand. Because the desert, off-road tracks and sand storms make our lives more difficult. The logistic must nevertheless function.”

The Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 cars and the Service Team are separated from one another during the marathon stage. What do you have to prepare for this?
"Apart for things such as spare parts and tools, a small detail as example: For every driver we packed a small sleeping bag, which is transported by Kris Nissen in the Team Managers' plane to the marathon stage. The kitbags with sleeping bags, tents and insulation mats were on the fastest Race-Truck. If this truck gets bogged down on the way, the next truck stops and takes the kitbags. Every driver carries small bag with a toothbrush and personnel items such as T-Shirts in the rally car.”

Standings after stage 9, Tichit (MR) – Nema (MR); 494/497 km stage 9/total

Pos.; Team; Vehicle; Stage 9; Total time
1. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 5h36m17s (3rd); 33h43m23s
2. Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 5h32m16s (2nd) + 7m50s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser/Arnaud Debron (F/F); Schlesser Buggy; 5h32m03s (1st) + 1h25m32s
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Alain Guehennec (QT/F); BMW X3; 5h46m37s (6th) + 2h02m21s
5. Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (J/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 5h40m41s (4th) + 2h13m44s
6. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 6h03m55s (10th) + 2h14m26s
7. Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 6h02m24s (7th) + 4h11m29s

8. Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA); Hummer H3; 6h05m12s (11th) + 6h20m59s
9. Stéphane Henrard/Brigitte Becue (B/B); Buggy Volkswagen; 6h31m35s (14th) + 7h18m55s
10. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 12h31m58s (94th) + 7h30m19s


Coming up…

Wednesday, 17 January, Nema (MR) – Nema (MR): 366 km stage/390 km total. After the route was changed due to safety reasons, and the stage to Timbuktu was cancelled, the competitors run a loop around Nema for the Dakar Rally's tenth stage. The majority of the route runs through dunes and mixed terrain.

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