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Dakar Future: What will Volkswagen do - Lavigne surprised.

The Dakar 2009 will enter in history - not only because with Volkswagen a diesel powered vehicle won or because instead of the traditional loneliness of Africa it was a mega event in South America but mostly because of the quitting of Mitsubishi, a brand which became united with the cross country rallies and the Dakar since the very beginning.

"I am very sorry because with Mitsubishi we lost one of the best teams of the history of the Dakar" - says Dakar boss Etienne Lavigne after the announcement of the Mitsubishi which came as a surprise also for him. But for the future of the rally he is not worried: "We already survived other get-ins and get-outs like e.g. that of Porsche, Opel, Peugeot or Citroen."

X-Raid have a steady seat with its clients and after the success of the ‘secret’ factory team from South Africa (Ivar Tollefsen, 4th place overall) Nissan can also be at the start again - but the most interesting question is what does Volkswagen do now? As always, they follow in such things pure - concern policy. In accordance with this, the statements from Wolfsburg are very political and neutral.

VW motorsports director Kris Nissen regrets the decision of the Mitsubishi: "We still hope that this great team will find a solution to continue to start in rallies." Press officer Uwe Baldes considers it unlikely that Volkswagen also withdraws: "Our prospects are very good, this speaks for continuation. We have a reliable and fast car, and all the necessary equipment." VW representative Hans-Joachim Stuck sees it more critically: "It is sure that there will be restrictions in motorsport. Moreover, a question emerges: what is the use of racing without rivals."

Although there are rivals, even if not as factory team. Besides X-Raid, which is not a real factory team of BMW, there is Robby Gordon, who is supported by General Motors and announced the improvement of his team for 2010. In accordance with this VW technical director Ulrich Hackenberg won’t give rumours a chance: "The first assessment by the Board was extremely positive so that we are intensively thinking about continuing our commitment at the 2010 Dakar Rally." A final decision about the participation at the Dakar will be made within weeks.

Mitsubishi, on the other hand, explains its quitting with the world economic crisis - the worst is, that after they withdrawn also from WRC practically there is no more notable event which can ‘push’ the brand. In Germany alone, more than two thirds of the drivers know the brand Mitsubishi only through the Dakar.

"It is extremely regrettable. I am sorry for our fans. We were a good team too," said Mitsubishi Motors president Osamu Masuko. "Since 2004, we continued to participate in the rally even in difficult times by cutting costs. We gained much technologically during this time. It pains me to say we will no longer be able to participate."

2009/02/17 | 01:52 CET | Editor: MR/HS/RK

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