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This is the single-news section of the marathonrally.com news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.









Dakar 2007: Carlos Sainz keeps Volkswagen at top of leader board.






The Race Touareg continues Volkswagen’s domination at the head of the leader board after six of the Dakar Rally’s 15 stages: The Spaniard Carlos Sainz and his French co-driver Michel Périn lead the Dakar Rally now for the fourth day in succession. On the extremely fast stage from Tan Tan in Morocco to Zouérat in Mauritania, at 817 kilometres also the longest of the rally, Sainz recorded the fourth fastest time. Under these conditions the buggies were able to exploit their weight and power advantages granted to them by the regulations the American Robby Gordon won from the Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser. The third fastest time went to Giniel de Villiers in a Volkswagen Race Touareg. The South African and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz clawed back 25 seconds from the overall leader and now lie second 3:11 minutes behind Sainz.

The Portuguese-German duo Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz still hold third position in the Lagos Team Race Touareg 2, who recorded the sixth fastest stage time. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) from the Volkswagen factory team completed the stage 12:38 minutes behind in ninth position and, in doing so, improved their overall position by two places to eighth on the tough stage, which saw several top teams tumble down the leader board. Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons (Finland/Italy) reached the finish in 56th place even though they could only drive their Race Touareg in second gear and after having stopped to help Guerlain Chicherit (France), who had had an accident, and after towing his BMW team mate Jutta Kleinschmidt (German) to the finish.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "We can be satisfied at the conclusion of this long and exciting day, because three Race Touaregs are leading the field. The fast sections were made for the buggies, which have more power, greater suspension travel and which also weigh less. These advantages were clearly demonstrated by Robby Gordon's victory in today's stage from Jean-Louis Schlesser. By finishing third and fourth on today's stage we also showed that we can keep Mitsubishi at bay in Mauritania."

Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 3rd place (leg) / 2nd position overall: "An incredibly fast start to the stage followed by a more technically challenging and tricky mid section and rounded off by a fast final section. I drove completely alone and didn't catch anybody up. It was only at the end that we noticed a dust trail in the distance created by Stéphane Peterhansel. The navigation was very easy today."

Carlos Sainz (E), 4th place (leg) / 1st position overall: "The stage ran absolutely perfectly for us, I'm really pleased. It wasn't easy to forge a path through the camel grass, since the motorbikes had taken a completely different path that was hardly drivable for cars. The first 180 kilometres were very fast, followed by sandy section and then dunes again. I hope things can continue in this vane for Michel and I and naturally for Volkswagen as well."

Mark Miller (USA), 9th place (leg) / 8th position overall: "We followed Carlos Sousa through the dunes and camel grass sections at the beginning of the stage. It was going well, the navigation was no problem - it was great fun. We lost quite a lot of time towards the end, but in spite of this we have improved to eighth position overall."

Ari Vatanen (FIN), 72nd place (leg): "I felt as if I was twenty-years old again in the first 190 kilometres, particularly as things were running fantastically well. We suddenly had a problem with the gearbox and could only drive in second gear. We stopped at the scene of the accident where Guerlain Chicherit had rolled his car and looked after him for ten minutes. We continued in second gear again. We stopped 30 kilometres before the stage finish to help Jutta Kleinschmidt whose BMW had ground to a halt due to electrical problems. We towed her to the finish."

The 22-year old Belgian François Verbist, who drives one of the three Volkswagen factory team Race-Truck's, is the youngest Race-Truck driver on this year's rally. For the son of Ari Vatanen's race engineer, René Verbist, it is his third Dakar event in the Volkswagen factory team, after working as riding mechanic in a Race-Truck in 2005 and 2006. Verbist junior can normally be found pounding around the race track back at home: In Belgium, he has already competed in several one-make cup races and with a Porsche in the domestic GT-Championship.

The 78 Volkswagen team members are still in top physical condition in spite of the stresses and strains. "There hasn't been a single illness or injury worthy of note", stresses team Doctor Beate Zerbe. The anaesthetist is happy so far: "Everybody started the rally in good condition, our household rules concerning everything from hydration to hygiene have been followed to the letter and unnecessary risks are avoided." The only medical problems to date: Several colds that were carried from Europe, and diarrhoea and plasters for small scrapes and scratches.

2007/01/11 | 22:53 CET | Editor: MR/VW Press






















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