Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dakar Rally Update: Volkswagen maintains 1-2-3 lead after fifth

Volkswagen continues to lead the Dakar Rally, maintaining a 1-2-3 position lead after braving the Moroccan terrain. Volkswagen will begin stage 6 with Sainz/Périn at 1st, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz at 2nd, and Sousa/Schulz at 3rd.

The Rally will be leaving Morocco from Tan Tan and will be heading to Mauritania. Stage 6 will be the longest stage, running through sand dunes among other things.

Jump for Rally details.

Source: Volkswagen Motorsport
WOLFSBURG, Germany - Fourth stage victory and top-three positions overall – things are still running well for Volkswagen after five of the Rally Dakar’s fifteen competitive stages.

Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn won the fifth stage from Ouarzazate to Tan Tan in Morocco by 30 seconds from Mitsubishi driver Stéphane Peterhansel, and in doing so claimed their second stage victory and fourth of the rally for Volkswagen. The Spanish-French duo increased its overall lead by more than one-and-a-half minutes on the 768 kilometre long stage. Two Volkswagen team mates fill second and third places overall behind the double Rally World Champion: Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, third on today's stage, remain second overall. The Portuguese-German squad of Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz, in the Lagos-Team Race Touareg, defended third overall. Volkswagen leads the 29th running of the desert classic since the opening stage.

Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford and Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons finished the fifth stage in eighth and sixteenth respectively in two other blue Race Touareg prototypes sporting the Red-Bull design. The stony and dusty tracks winding through Moroccan Atlas Mountain Range passes pushed both man and machine to their limits: Both Ari Vatanen and Mark Miller suffered three punctures each.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"Our drivers and co-drivers did a great job on a difficult stage in the heights of the Atlas Mountain Range, particularly as the dust made concentration more difficult. In spite of this we managed to increase our lead over Mitsubishi. Another 4,000 kilometres still lie ahead of us. It's a pity that two of our drivers each had three tyre failures. We aren't going to back off on the next stages and will remain concentrated and motivated.”

#301 – Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 3rd place (leg) / 2nd position overall
"We caught Jean-Louis Schlesser very quickly, but he blocked us for the best part of 100 kilometres. You really had to be very careful because the tracks were very twisty and rocky. There were a lot of cars with punctures, but we got through unscathed. I'm expecting a fast route of Thursday as well, since we still haven't encountered the typical desert stages yet.”

#303 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place (leg) / 1st position overall
"That was a good day: The Race Touareg ran perfectly on the stony stage, and we weren't held up at all. To win the stage and keep the lead is obviously positive. The really tough part of the rally begins with the start of the sixth stage.”

#305 – Mark Miller (USA), 8th place (leg) / 10th position overall
"We had a day of up and downs today: At the beginning our time was very good, but then we had a couple of tyre failures within 20 kilometres of one another. So, we had to change wheels and I drove much slower. We speeded up again about 50 kilometres from the finish, only to suffer a third puncture. Since we only had three spare wheels and tyres on board I drove very cautiously to the finish.”

#308 – Ari Vatanen (FIN), 16th place (day) / 72nd position overall
"We had a tyre failure just after the start. The wheels nuts were really tight, which is why the cordless drill wasn‘t up to the job and we had to loosen them by hand. We got a couple of slow punctures later. We pumped up one of the tyres on two occasions, and the other stayed inflated till the finish. Towards the end we stopped to help a motorcyclist who had crashed and was trapped beneath his bike on the ground.”

Snippets from Volkswagen bivouac

- Marathon for support armada: At 775 kilometres in length, the fifth day of the Dakar Rally was the second longest stage for the four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 prototypes. The day was also extremely long for the accompanying armada, which had to spool off 664 kilometres along a tarmac road from the bivouac in Ouarzazate to Tan Tan. The team's trucks hit the road at 2 o'clock in the morning to make sure they reached the stage finish before the rally cars, and to set-up the Volkswagen bivouac. After completing the 720 kilometre service-route from Tan Tan to Zouerat, which includes several off-road segments, the support vehicles are expected to arrive late at the bivouac on Thursday, as they can only leave the Tan Tan after the rally cars have left. The reason for this rule is the organised crossing of a minefield on the border with Mauritania.

- No relation: The South African Cornel de Villiers is one of the leading riders in the quad bike class. However, he is not related to Volkswagen factory driver Giniel de Villiers. "But I do know Cornel”, says Giniel de Villiers, whose surname originates from French ancestors that settled centuries ago in the region of South Africa where the factory driver lives today. "I told him that he must be completely crazy to do the 'Dakar' on a Quad.” Unfortunately, engine failure forced him to retire on the fifth stage.

- Spectator enclosure in bivouac at Tan Tan: The airfield in the Moroccan town of Tan Tan is the destination for several hundreds of enthusiastic Dakar Rally fans from around the world every year. The rally enthusiasts, including many fans of the Volkswagen factory team, camp around the perimeter of the airfield in camper vans. Many fans visited the Volkswagen bivouac in the afternoon, to watch the mechanics working and catch a glimpse of the drivers.”

Three questions to Ernst Moser, Team Boss Phoenix Sport (Lagos Team)

After the fifth stage of the Dakar Rally, Carlos Sousa holds third place overall in a Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 from Lagos Team, run by Phoenix Sport. Are you surprised by this?
"There's no denying that the rally has run fantastically well until now. Carlos Sousa won a stage, and he led the rally up to the second stage. We receive excellent material and great support from Volkswagen, our Race Touareg is identical to the factory cars. We thought that things could be good. But is also a surprise for us that things are running so well. I really hope that this trend continues.”

What are your targets?
"We'll attempt to defend our position all the way to the rest day in Atar on 13 January, which is followed by the marathon stage. After that, the field will almost certainly be even more spread out and the rally even harder.”

How big is the Team Lagos team, and how is the cooperation with Volkswagen functioning?
"We are in fact a small, but extremely close-knit team that has benefited enormously from its experience gained during the Dakar Rally in 2006 when we supported Mark Miller's factory car. There are eleven team members following in a Service-Truck, a T5 van and a Service-Touareg. In addition, we also receive excellent support in many areas from Volkswagen Motorsport.”

Standings after stage 5, Ouarzazate (MA) – Tan Tan (MA); 325/768 km stage 5/total

Pos.; Team; Vehicle; Stage 5; Total time
1. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h36m39s (1st); 12h53m50s
2. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h38m20s (3rd) + 3m36s
3. Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h43m36s (7th) + 11m17s

4. Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h41m11s (5th) + 16m16s
5. Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h40m56s (4th) + 20m27s
6. Guerlain Chicherit/Matthieu Baumel (F/F); BMW X3; 3h41m42s (6th) + 23m31s
7. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h37m09s (2nd) + 24m31s
8. Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (J/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 3h49m09s (10th) + 25m19s
9. Jean-Louis Schlesser/Arnaud Debron (F/F); Schlesser Buggy; 3h54m09s (13th) + 35m50s
10. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 3h44m17s (8th) + 49m32s
72. Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons (FIN/I); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h29m57s (16th) + 7h11m10s

Coming up…

Thursday, 11 January: Stage 6, Tan Tan (MA) – Zouerat (MR): 394 km stage/817 km total. The Rally Armada leaves Morocco and crosses the border to Mauritania during the Dakar Rally's longest stage. After completing a 414 kilometre liaison stage, a 394 kilometre long stage is on the agenda, the second half of which runs through sand dunes.


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