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PAX Rally: Volkswagen completes “Dakar” preparation with podium result.

Volkswagen completed its preparations for the Dakar Rally in January 2009 with a podium result at the last test under competitive conditions. At the second round of the Dakar Series in Portugal Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F) in the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, due to a roll-over on the final special stage, had to admit defeat to winner Stéphane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi) with a merely 16-second gap after a five-day duel. Prior to that, the Volkswagen duo had been leading the "Dakar” dress reheasal for three days. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D) completed Volkswagen’s result with fourth place overall.

For the first time this season, Volkswagen was beaten in cross-country rally sport by a narrow margin: Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn had won the opening event of the Dakar Series in Central Europe in April, while Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) at their debut in the Race Touareg 2 had occupied the strong third position. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, together with their team-mates Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA), clinched a one-two victory for Volkswagen at the Rallye dos Sertões in Brazil in June. Now, Volkswagen achieved the fifth podium place at three events in the 2008 season.

The third victory of the season was prevented by extremely unfortunate circumstances: On the final day in Portugal, which Carlos Sainz had started with a 31-second advantage, a forest fire caused the final special stage to be interrupted. All cars started only after the first scheduled time check. At a check point Sainz had been shown a 45-second lead by his team shortly before the end of the stage when his car got caught in a ditch in a slow bend, rolled over to land on the roof and, with assistance by spectators, had to be put back on its wheels.

Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz finished fourth overall with a 2.42-minute gap. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk in the third Race Tourareg had to retire from the rally on the third leg following an excursion off the track. In a fourth Race Touareg Volkswagen factory driver Mark Miller (USA) took hockey Olympic winner Christopher Zeller across the event’s longest special stage on opening day. The athlete, who had assumed the role of the co-driver for one day, obviously enjoyed his foray into a different sporting discipline.

Next year the Race Touareg 2 powered by a 280 hp TDI diesel engine will meet those rivals in South America who, together with Volkswagen, had shown fans in Portugal fights for single seconds and a total of three lead changes on the five days of the competition.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director) : "For Volkswagen, the rally here in Portugal was the dress rehearsal before the ‘Dakar’ in January. From a sporting perspective, we saw tough fight between equal rivals – Volkswagen and Mitsubishi. Either one would have deserved victory. From a technical perspective, the Race Touareg 2 cars ran perfectly. Merely a small mistake at the end made the close difference. We congratulate Mitsubishi and Stéphane Peterhansel on their victory. But also in terms of teamwork our squad showed that it is well prepared for the ‘Dakar’ – we’re looking forward to revenge in January.”

Carlos Sainz (E), 8th place leg / 2nd place overall: "Unfortunately, we had no luck on the final leg. On the last kilometres we had to relinquish our lead after a roll-over. Shortly before the end of the special stage I received a signal showing me a 45-second advantage. After that, I reduced my pace a little and apparently lost my concentration briefly in the process. The wheels got caught somewhere and we landed on the roof. Thanks to the help by the spectators we were able to finish the leg and rally. Second place is still a good result. Congratulations to Stéphane Peterhansel.”

Michel Périn (F), co-driver: "From the outset the rally was a fierce fight with our main rivals at the Dakar Rally. As early as at the first round of the Dakar Series this competition made for a lot of suspense. The second round in Portugal confirmed again that it’s always a fight at eye level. Unfortunately, we lost our narrow lead by a roll-over, on the final leg of all times. We need to apologise to our team for this – it would have more than deserved victory.”

Dieter Depping (D), retirement: "Unfortunately, this ‘Dakar’ dress rehearsal was over for us much too early. On the third leg I made a small mistake – with a major effect. We hit a tree and that meant the end of the rally for us. I would very much have liked giving a success to my mechanics, who put together a perfect Race Touareg for us throughout the rally.”

Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver: "This was one of the most exciting rallies I’ve ever experienced. Here, you always had to come up with the right mix between taking a calculated risk and using the right tactics. Unfortunately, we retired on the third leg after slipping off the track and hitting a tree. Too bad, because we’d have liked playing a part in the fight for overall victory all the way up to the end.”

Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 2nd place leg / 4th overall: "This rally was simply incredible from the beginning to the end. Just the suspense offered by the final leg would be enough for many other rallies. In a left-hand bend we got off the track and ended up several metres below the track. I’m very sure that only the power and torque of our Race Touareg enabled us to come out of that situation again and to finish the legs. Luckily for us, the first section of the special stage was not counted in the overall result today.”

Dirk von Zitzewitz (D), co-driver: "The rally was a good test for the whole team with regard to the Dakar Rally in January. The competitive level was high, and the team worked together extremely harmoniously and always gave us optimum material. We sold our skin dearly, but not as dearly as we’d been planning to. All in all, we can say that the organisers did a good job: The routes and the roadbooks were perfectly prepared.”

Tentative final results, 2nd round of the Dakar Series in Portugal, 10 Sep – 14 Sep 2008

1. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 33m44s (6th); 10h 54m14s
2. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 34m31s (8th) + 16s
3. Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 33m03s (3rd) + 1m21s
4. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 32m43s (2nd) + 2m42s
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Tina Thörner (QT/S); BMW X3; 32m26s (1st) + 5m41s
6. Joan Roma/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 33m26s (4th) + 12m00s
7. Filipe Campos/Jaime Baptista (P/P); BMW X3; 35m07s (9th) + 20m14s
8. Guerlain Chicherit/Mathieu Baumel (F/F); BMW X3; 33m41s (5th) + 1h 00m13s
9. Miroslav Zapletal/Tomás Ourednicek (CZ/CZ); Mitsubishi L200; 35m11s (10th) + 1h 01m51s
10. Maurizio Traglio/Fabien Lurquin (I/B); Nissan Pathfinder; 37m26s (18th) + 1h 40m04s

2008/09/14 | 21:40 CET | Editor: MR/Volkswagen/Rita Konya

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