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Dakar 2007: Carlos Sainz claims seventh stage win for Volkswagen.

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."

Giniel de Villiers (RSA): "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."

Carlos Sainz (E): "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."

Mark Miller (USA): "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."

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."

2007/01/19 | 14:11 CET | Editor: MR/VW Press

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