|Dakar 2010: Volkswagen still lead - Al-Attiyah reduces deficit.|
Volkswagen defended its lead on the eleventh of the 14 stages in the Dakar Rally: The three Volkswagen Race Touareg cars continue to lead the overall standings after the second Andes crossing from Chile to Argentina. The name of the potential winner still remains wide open: The leaders Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) lost 5 minutes 38 seconds of their lead to Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA). The closest rivals - Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F) in an X-raid BMW – are already 2 hours 9 minutes behind the leader in fourth place.
Sainz was forced to accept a setback on the descent of the Andes from an altitude of around 3,000 metres: Two slow punctures threw him back. In the overall standings he now leads by only 4 minutes 28 seconds from his team mate Al-Attiyah from Qatar. Mark Miller is still third 23 minutes 50 seconds behind. Best Volkswagen drivers on the day were Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D): Last year´s winners recorded the third fastest stage time ahead of Al-Attiyah and Miller and remain seventh overall. Victory on the day went to Guerlain Chicherit/Tina Thörner (F/S) in an X-raid BMW.
The eleventh Dakar Rally day was dominated by tight gravel sections, made great demands of both man and machine through river crossings and formed a challenge for the brakes with a long downhill section at the end of the stage. On the numerous rocky and stony sections the drivers aimed to avoid getting punctures.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "Three Race Touareg cars at the top of the leader board - we can still be satisfied with this. Carlos was thrown back today by two tyre failures, however his position in the overall standings remains unchanged. At the moment Carlos and Nasser are fighting among themselves at the head of the field - the next few days will be very exciting. All four Race Touareg vehicles again ran faultlessly on this demanding stage in high altitude."
Giniel de Villiers (ZA): "A very narrow stage including the long crossing of a dry riverbed and also some water splashes. On top of this came deep hanging treetops through which we had to fight. There were enough opportunities to get a puncture today. We managed to avoid this, but after having started so far down we lost loads of time stuck in the dust cloud created by two Mitsubishis. From this point of view our result is quite satisfying."
Carlos Sainz (E): "Two slow punctures cost us a lot of time today. The first held only 30 kilometres, the second 40 before we had to change. The first time Stéphane Peterhansel in the X-raid BMW overtook me and the second time my team mate Mark Miller. From then on we spent the rest of the day in dust. Although this stage was short it was anything but easy. I´m happy that were able to retain the overall lead."
Mark Miller (USA): "Today things were really tough. I wasn´t completely sure whether we´d found the right set-up as a lot of today´s route followed riverbeds. I intentionally took very little risk. However, in view of the time we achieved both the set-up and tactics were correct. Towards the end I had a slow puncture for the last 40 kilometres, which I didn´t have to change before the finish. I´m more than happy with the result."
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q): "The gap between my team mate Carlos Sainz and I has shrunk. However, it wasn´t my own performance which was decisive but in fact Carlos´ bad luck which brought him two slow punctures and cost him time. I think our tactics of driving carefully on the terrain with sharp stones before attacking when tyre failures were unlikely paid off. I must, however, admit that we were lucky today - as we hit a tree once and could have damaged the car."
2010/01/14 | 11:39 CET | Editor: MR/HS/VW/Moser