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Morocco Rally: Volkswagen scores double in front of X-Raid

Third consecutive win in Morocco: On the heels of its success in 2005 and 2006, Volkswagen scored another victory at the fourth round of the 2007 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup in Morocco. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany), driving the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, wrapped up the final stage of the six-day Morocco Rally by crossing the finish line 3:13 minutes ahead of team-mates Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France). Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (Portugal/Germany), driving a Race Touareg for the Lagos Team, came in fourth ahead of Volkswagen factory drivers Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa).

Carlos Sainz, winner of the Transibérico Rally in early July, began the sixth and final leg with a slim advantage of only eight seconds, kept in front in the early stage of the test, but then lost precious time as a result of two punctures. This opened the door for Giniel de Villiers, who also suffered a puncture, to race to victory over the 222-kilometre stage through the rocky Atlas Mountains.

Giniel de Villiers now has three wins under his belt for Volkswagen, following victories at the Transibérico and Morocco Rallies last season. At the fourth round of the FIA Cross-Country World Cup, the South African native and his German co-pilot Dirk von Zitzewitz racked up three stage wins, with Carlos Sainz and Michel Périn capturing the other three legs. The Volkswagen Race Touareg claimed 15 of the 18 possible top three finishes over the six stages in Morocco.

The Race Touareg, powered by a strong 280 horsepower, 2.5-litre TDI diesel, now has seven Cross-Country World Cup victories. Altogether, the prototype boasts 60 stage wins and has held the lead on 54 days while competing in 19 tests since 2004.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "Volkswagen’s performance in Morocco was a huge success. Our four Race Touaregs finished first, second, fourth and fifth. We’re particularly pleased with the double victory by Giniel and Carlos because they were driving with the latest technical specification for the 2008 Dakar Rally. Our cars ran extremely well over the six stages. In addition, our drivers and co-pilots, as well as the entire crew, worked perfectly as a team. If you look at the lead we have on Al-Attiyah, we expect to have an exciting race at the ‘Dakar’. We’re now concentrating on preparations for the ‘Dakar’ and the upcoming competition at the UAE Desert Challenge at the end of October."

Giniel de Villiers: "A tough, but great Rally. The last stage held some surprises. We made one wrong turn, later had tyre damage and thought the outcome of the race had already been decided. But then a little later we saw Carlos sitting on the side with a puncture. We learned a lot here that will be useful at the ‘Dakar’. Dirk did a super job, especially on the fourth day when we opened up the route, but still made up time on Carlos."

Dirk von Zitzewitz (D): "I’m happy about our third victory and I really enjoyed the rally. The first three stages, although very similar, were still extremely interesting and demanding to navigate. The fourth day was a real challenge because there was lots of sand. The last day was exciting. We tried to make it through without mistakes and were suddenly in the lead."

Carlos Sainz: "Our congratulations to Giniel and Dirk. This rally was thrilling right down to the end. Although we drove very carefully during the last stage, we still had two punctures. We simply had bad luck. The double victory is a great success for Volkswagen. It was a versatile rally - sandy, fast, bumpy and curvy in the mountains. It offered us a chance to prepare for Dakar in January."

Michel Périn: "Several of the tests are very similar to Dakar. From the vantage point of the co-pilot, the navigation was demanding. Each day there were sections where you had to ask yourself as the co-pilot whether you made the right decision. But the road book was okay. We lost several minutes on the fourth stage because of the navigation. That contributed as well. This year we spent each night in a hotel for the first time. That simplified the work, but we missed some of that Dakar bivouac atmosphere."

Carlos Sousa: "I’m satisfied. This event was a good test for Dakar and that’s what counts. We gained lots of test kilometres. In addition, the Dakar route traverses this area. I’m a bit disappointed with the result because my goal was to end up on the podium. We made up several minutes on the last stage, but just missed third place. At the end of the day, every second counted."

Andreas Schulz: "This was a tough rally. I’m not a big fan of this event, nevertheless it’s a good way to prepare for the ‘Dakar’. Personally, I preferred to spend the night in hotels instead of tents. You often don’t get much sleep in the tents when sand storms blow in. In addition, it’s easier to work on the road book in a hotel."

Mark Miller: "The last stage ran super for us. In contrast to my team-mates’ Race Touareg, my vehicle doesn’t have the last evolution in motor and transmission technology yet, so it doesn’t perform as well. I gave it everything I had, but it still wasn’t enough to keep up with my team-mates. The results here showed us that the Race Touareg has progressed to the newest stage of development. That gives me a positive outlook for the ‘Dakar’."

Ralph Pitchford: "Mark and I had a tough rally with several punctures and we drove into the sand once. But we still gave it everything we had and the teamwork in the cockpit was very good. Navigation was absolutely demanding and we learned a lot from it. We’re even more excited about the ‘Dakar’ now."

Tentative final result Morocco Rally (MA), 25-30 September 2007

01) De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (RSA/D) I VW Race Touareg I 17:36:35
02) Sainz/Périn (E/F) I VW Race Touareg I + 3:13 Min.
03) Al-Attiyah/Guehennec (QA/F) I BMW X3 CC I + 35:56 Min.
04) Sousa/Schulz (P/D) I VW Race Touareg I + 37:35 Min.
05) Miller/Pitchford (USA/RSA) I VW Race Touareg I + 1:23:32 Std.
06) Housieaux/Polato (F/F) I Schlesser Ford I + 2:07:14 Std.
07) Nobre/Palmeiro (BR/P) I X-Raid BMW X3CC I + 3:08:35 Std.
08) Komornicki/Marton (PL/PL) I SMG I + 3:46:05 Std.
09) Monterde/Lurquin (E/B) I Schlesser Ford I + 3:51:38 Std.
10) Shinozuka/Di Persio (J/I) I Nissan Pathfinder I + 4:33:50 Std.

2007/09/30 | 21:05 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Volkswagen

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