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Dakar 2007: VW in third and fifth positions with Miller and Sainz.

Volkswagen finished the tenth stage of the 29th Dakar Rally in third and fifth positions. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa), currently sixth overall in the Dakar and therefore now best placed Volkswagen drivers, scored their personal best result with third positions. On the 400 kilometre long loop through the savannah around Nema in Mauritania, the two English speaking professionals in the Race Touareg 2 were only 1:49 minutes slower than day winner Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar in a BMW. The Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka in a Mitsubishi was second.

The Volkswagen factory drivers Carlos Sainz (Spain) and Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) started a courageous fight back. Both were towed to yesterday's stage finish by Race-Trucks, losing an enormous amount of time in the process, after both cars succumbed to engine problems - the reason for both defects was a defective cam-follower in the valve train. A remarkable team effort overnight saw both cars prepared to take the start today. Carlos Sainz and his French co-driver Michel PĂ©rin started the tenth stage punctually and incredibly posted the fifth fastest time despite running in the dust clouds of their direct competitors. In the overall standings, which are still headed by the Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel in a Mitsubishi, the duo hold tenth position.

Giniel de Villiers finished 14th on the day together with his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz. Because the repair work was only finished in the early hours of the morning, the duo started the stage 22 minutes late and arrived at the finish only 23m50s behind the winner. They are now twelfth overall, the Portuguese-German duo Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (Lagos-Team) remain seventh.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "Things have calmed down since yesterday's situation. The team worked fantastically under difficult conditions and prepared both Giniel's and Carlos' cars perfectly. Only a whisker separated Mark Miller from claiming today's stage, but the win went to Nasser Al-Attiyah and the team managed by Sven Quandt - congratulations. Tomorrow is a little like a rest day since only a liaison stage is driven. As a consequence, the team has time to prepare the cars in peace and quiet and to recharge their own batteries. We'll continue as a close knit team towards Dakar. We aim to continue to score top results in the daily stages."

Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 15th place (leg) / 12th position overall: "We started the stage with a 22 minute delay, but are nevertheless extremely grateful to the team that we are actually still in the rally. If you take the pure stage time a result in the top-three was possible. The day was physically very hard, and on the other hand the navigation was very easy. Unfortunately, at some point or other another competitor drove completely without reason into the side of our car. It was if we were racing on a circuit."

Carlos Sainz (E), 5th place (leg) / 10th position overall: "My thanks to the team that prepared an excellent car for me overnight again. We drove for ages in dust today and had to overtake loads of opponents. The route was a kind of hard track winding through the middle of powder like Fech-Fech sand, lines of trees and bushes."

Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place (leg) / 6th position overall: "I drove on the limit today and took as much as the car could give. Third position is our best result to date, but it could have been more if I hadn't gone the wrong way in the set-up. The car had a little too much understeer. After 17 kilometres I overtook a buggy, and then later Jutta Kleinschmidt. The route was very unusual: Basically we drove through sand, but the middle of the track was very hard, which you had to follow exactly. It was a completely new experience for me. I still hope to be able to catch Mitsubishi on the next, very slow stage."

Best wishes in the desert: Carlos Sousa from Lagos Team, who was 41-years old on 16 January, only received best wishes. Co-driver Andreas Schulz was among the first to wish him a happy birthday. Ernst Moser from race team Phoenix Sport arrived too late. "I got up extra early to wish Carlos all the best but he was already on his way to the tenth stage", he explains. The Team Boss and Volkswagen Motorsport team members caught up with the birthday boy in the afternoon: A birthday cake awaited the seventh overall driver after finishing the tenth stage.

Nightshift for Volkswagen: After Carlos Sainz's Race Touareg 2 was towed into the bivouac at 21:45 with an engine problem, and the car driven by team mate Giniel de Villiers followed at around 23:00, the Volkswagen team faced a race against time. The timing belt in Carlos Sainz's Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 engine had jumped a tooth as a result of a defective cam-follower - the decision was made to rebuild the engine completely and replace the cylinder head. On Giniel de Villiers' car the cylinder-head was also replaced after a defective cam-follower punched through the valve cover and the escaping oil ignited on the hot turbocharger. "The fire damage in the engine bay was much worse than originally anticipated", says Donatus Wichelhaus, Head of Engine Development at Volkswagen Motorsport. "We had to replace all the hoses and pipes for water, brake fluid, hydraulic oil and fuel and also many electrical cables."

2007/01/16 | 17:10 CET | Editor: MR/VW-Press

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