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Dos Sertoes: Giniel de Villiers sets pace in Brazil.

First leg, first stage victory: The Volkswagen "factory" duo Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz has decided the first stage of the Rally dos Sertões in its favour. With the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, the South African-German pairing completed today’s leg of the cross-country rally through Brazil, setting the best time.

Between Goiânia and Rio Verde the route covered two special stages of a total of 185.5 kilometres. Their team-mates Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA) in the second Race Touareg occupied third place overall at the end of the first leg. In the Race Touareg’s 23rd race, after winning last night’s prologue, today marked Volkswagen’s 70th stage victory and 59th day of being the lead car.

Following the spectacular night-time stage attended by spectators yesterday, the first leg of the Rally dos Sertões from the start at Goiânia in Central Brazil first led to Santa Helena de Goiâs across quick sections. After the first 184-kilometre timed section another spectator stage over a 1.5-kilometre distance was on the agenda before the rally day ended at Rio Verde after a total of 272 kilometres.

The second of ten legs will take the teams from Rio Verde to Aruanã on Thursday. On slow, steep and stony routes, a total of 481 kilometres, 222 of them special stages, are awaiting the contenders.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "On our way to the Dakar Rally in January 2009 the Rallye dos Sertões is another step to prepare ourselves. Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz as well as Mark Miller and Ralph Pitchford opened the competition today with a good first stage. The next few days will offer lots of variety in terms of the terrain. We´re definitely eager to see what´s in store for us."

Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 1st place: "As the prologue winner we had the privilege today of opening the course. On the one hand, that was an advantage because we neither had to overtake nor swallow the dust of a car in front. On the other hand, the service roads were covered with a thin, slippery layer of gravel. The preparation of the course was first-class, the roadbook very detailed - all in all, it was a very nice day for us."

Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place: "The first 30 to 40 kilometres went really well for us. Unfortunately, we were slowed by another vehicle that had started in front of us. On the narrow track it was very difficult to overtake this vehicle in its cloud of dust without taking any unnecessary risks. Still, the day was positive for us. The Race Touareg was running perfectly. I wouldn´t mind if things continued this way."

2008/06/18 | 00:05 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Volkswagen

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