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Dakar 2008: Volkswagen anticipates tough Dakar Rally.

Volkswagen expects an exceptionally demanding Dakar Rally for the 30th anniversary of the desert classic from 5 to 20 January 2008. The four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 cars fielded by the factory team have to prove themselves in the fight against their competitors across a total distance of 9,273 kilometres. The proportion of liaison stages that do not count in the classification has clearly been reduced, while the distance of the 15 special stages through Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal has increased by 33 percent to 5,736 kilometres, compared to last year. This information was announced today (Wednesday) by the organisers, ASO, during a presentation in Paris. As a result, the Volkswagen Race Touareg might be facing the toughest Dakar Rally ever since its career started in 2004.

"With almost 6000 kilometres we’re in for a very long ‘Dakar’. Many days will be spent in the dunes of Mauritania," analyses Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "For the drivers and the team, this will be a big strain. The drivers and co-drivers will be spending many hours in the cockpit on the long stages, which means the team will not be able to start working until the late evening hours due to the late arrival times at the bivouac. We welcome the very long and demanding route of the ‘Dakar’ for its 30th anniversary. It will be a great challenge. During our tests in Tunisia and at the UAE Desert Challenge, the finale of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup near Dubai, we drove on a lot of sand and this confirmed that we have achieved notable improvements on this type of terrain as well."

After starting from Lisbon for the third time - as in 2006 and 2007 - and crossing over to Africa on 6 January, the contenders will be in for six legs in Morocco and Mauritania before the day of rest in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on 13 January will mark the beginning of the rally’s second half. Six further tough legs in Mauritania are on the agenda before the rally finishes in Senegal. With eight legs, the Mauritanian sector of the route forms the heart of the event. There, 3,853 kilometres of special stages (67 percent of the total timed distance) and a total of 5,188 kilometres (56 percent of the overall distance) will be driven. All four of the special stages with more than 500 timed kilometres are part of this sector of the route. But that is not all: The two cross-country legs from 11 to 12 and from 16 to 17 January, on which no regular service is permitted, are being staged in Mauritanian territory as well. This region has traditionally been regarded as the toughest sector of the route.

"The 2008 Dakar will be longer, tougher and more difficult," says Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz, the winner of the 2007 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup. "We expect lots of sand, dunes and two cross-country legs where no mechanics are allowed to help us in the evening." Co-driver Michel Périn adds: "Just the fact that the number of timed kilometres has increased by a third will make this a tough rally. Since we’re not going to drive through Mali this time, there will be 2,000 additional kilometres in Mauritania where there are no trails, and this makes the navigation very important."

In Europe and in Morocco a number of new special stages will be awaiting the contenders a well. "In Mauritania the rally will return to locations that have not been used as legs in the rally for over a decade - such as Nouhadibou," explains Dirk von Zitzewitz, the co-driver of Giniel de Villiers, the runner-up of the 2006 Dakar Rally. "The organisers have announced a number of erg crossings, sand stages that have not been driven previously and the famous Nega pass near Kiffa as special challenges. More than once in the past the outcome of the rally was decided on such types of stages."

The four Volkswagen Race Touareg cars of the factory team will be driven by Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (Germany/Germany), Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa), Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France) as well as Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany). A fifth Race Touareg fielded by the customer team Lagos will be driven by Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (Portugal/Germany).

2007/11/22 | 15:25 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Baldes/Volkswagen

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