|Dakar 2010: Volkswagen driver Sainz extends the overall lead.|
The sixth Dakar leg between Antofagasta and Iquique was marked by constantly changing terrain. Besides vast expanses the day featured winding passages across gravel as well. The leg ended with a spectacular downhill finish to the rally bivouac from a dune situated in front of the coast at which the participants ran 600 metres downhill within just a few seconds at speeds of up to 180 km/h.
Volkswagen continues leading the 2010 Dakar Rally after the sixth of 14 stages with three Race Touareg cars. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz, who had taken the lead the day before, extended their advantage in the Race Touareg from 4:37 mns to 15:24. Their team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk continue ranking as the overall runners-up ahead of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford in another Race Touareg.
"Today´s leg was even more demanding than those on the days before" said Carlos Sainz. "Particularly with respect to navigation it was possible to lose a lot of time. We still haven´t covered even half of the Dakar yet, so during the next few days the same thing will apply that I took to heart today: to drive in a way that´s as easy as possible on the material and to think one day at a time."
Mark Miller told: "Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time right in the beginning today because we had to look for the way. I don´t mean to blame my co-driver Ralph Pitchford for this because the road-book was not very precise today. But all in all I´m happy. And particularly the final shot was a good reward for today´s hard labour: thousands of spectators and a steep downhill drive towards the ocean, with the bivouac in front of our eyes. That was a massive surge of adrenaline."
Almost up to the finish of the 418-kilometre stage from Antofagasta to Iquique in Chile´s Atacama desert it looked as though Miller/Pitchford had taken second place overall. However, on the final 25 kilometres their temporary advantage in the overall standings of 3:19 over Al-Attiyah changed to a gap of 2:23 behind Al-Attiyah.
"Particularly for the co-drivers today wasn´t easy" said the Qatari. "There were many places where you could lose time looking for the way. That´s exactly what happened to us too. Nevertheless, I´m pleased with the stage result, considering the circumstances. Our tactics won´t change in any way: We´ll remain concentrated and cautious. But maybe we can still recover some time in the next few days anyhow."
Volkswagen, however, also suffered a set-back on the sixth leg: The Brazilian duo Maurício Neves/Clécio Maestrelli retired from the event after rolling over. The driver and co-driver are in good condition considering the circumstances. As a precautionary measure, Maurício Neves was taken to a hospital for a check where he was diagnosed as having fractured two ribs.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "On the sporting level the day went well for us. The three leading Race Touareg cars made it through the stage alright although it must have been an extremely difficult leg, according to the drivers. The navigation was difficult and the powdery fech-fech sand put high demands on the drivers. Tomorrow we must get through the 600-kilometre - and thus longest - special of the rally before the rest day in good shape.
Today´s leg also involved a bit of a shock for us: Our Brazilian duo experienced a severe roll-over. While co-driver Clécio Maestrelli sustained no injuries, driver Maurício Neves complained about chest pains and was therefore taken to a hospital for a medical examination. The fact that neither of them suffered any serious injuries shows that the Race Touareg´s build is very strong and sturdy."
2010/01/07 | 22:43 CET | Editor: MR/HS/VW/S.Moser