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Silk Way Rally: One-two-three victory for Volkswagen.

Volkswagen driver Carlos Sainz and his co-driver Lucas Cruz won the inaugural round of the Silk Way Rally through Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. After nine legs and a total of 4,896 kilometres the Spanish pairing in their Volkswagen Race Touareg reached the finish in Ashgabat ahead of their team-mates Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) and the "Dakar” winners Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in places two and three. For the two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, this marks the fourth victory with Volkswagen, for his navigator Lucas Cruz, it is the second after their joint exploit at the Rallye dos Sertoes in Brazil as well as the twelfth victory in total of the 300-hp Race Touareg with a TDI engine. With the one-two-three win on the tracks of the legendary Silk Road Volkswagen successfully completed its preparations for the 2010 Dakar Rally. The Silk Way Rally primarily served as a test in competitive conditions.
The fourth Volkswagen pairing, Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D), had been fighting a close duel with Sainz/Cruz and was leading the rally up to the eighth leg. After a roll-over, which both survived unharmed, they did not start to the ninth leg any more. The final leg, which was not held as a special stage, was opened by the presidents of the three hosting countries, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the President of Turkmenistan, Dmitri Medwedew, the President of Russia, and Nursultan Nasarbajew, the President of Kazakhstan. 
Kris Nissen: "The ‘Dakar’ dress rehearsal was successful: The Race Touareg vehicles were running with absolute reliability, our drivers and co-drivers delivered a close competition and the service crew did a perfect job. Long stages, dust and heat put the entire team to a tough test. There’s no better way to prepare. My thanks also go to the organisers and the hosts who created a competition that was well-organised and marked by a high sporting level. Volkswagen is perfectly prepared to tackle the ‘title defence project’ at the Dakar Rally in January 2010.”
Giniel de Villiers: "We had a good rally week. For Dirk and me, it was particularly important to get used to working in the cockpit after such a long break – the ‘Dakar’ in January was our last competition. At the beginning we had a bit of a problem getting back into the swing of things, but during the second half of the rally we found the right pace. I’m very optimistic as far as the ‘Dakar’ is concerned, we’re well prepared. I enjoyed the Silk Way Rally, it was well organised and a real change.”
Dirk von Zitzewitz: "The rally was a great experience and a very good test for the whole team. I’m very confident for the ‘Dakar’. I really respect the organisers; they did a good job with this rally that was a nice as well as a difficult event. We received a very warm welcome in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and I would be happy if this rally were staged again next year.”
Carlos Sainz: "My assessment of this rally is completely positive. Our car was running perfectly, the whole squad did an outstanding job, and it was also a long and tough event. The pace was very high throughout and the duel with Nasser and Timo was really good fun. It’s a shame that they were unlucky in the end and had to retire; they would have deserved victory as well. Our prospects of again competing for victory at the Dakar Rally in January are good.”
Lucas Cruz: "The navigators had a difficult job at the Silk Way Rally: Unlike at the ‘Dakar’ where the motorcycles start in front of us, we often had no orientation at all as the first vehicle out on the course. What’s more, the pace was very high and there was very little time to make decisions on the special stages with the many small branch-offs. Of course I’m happy about our victory, but the fact that the whole squad was able to get attuned to the ‘Dakar’ in an optimal manner is a lot more important.”
Mark Miller: "The rally really helped us to prepare for the ‘Dakar’. Ralph and I learned a lot about good teamwork in difficult situations. On three or four days, a lot more would probably have been possible for us, we’ll reflect on that again afterwards. In addition, for me as an American, it was a very special experience being able to explore these countries that were a taboo just a few years ago.”
Ralph Pitchford: "Driving the Silk Way Rally was absolutely the right thing to do. There’s no better way to prepare for the ‘Dakar’ than in a competition in unknown territory. We can definitely be pleased with our result. Mark did a very good job of driving; the navigation problems were a bit frustrating at times. Nevertheless, ‘well done’ to the organisers; it was a very good rally.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: "Of course we’re disappointed about retiring so close to the finish, but these things can happen in rally racing. I was impressed with how positively the squad received us afterwards. I really feel at home with Volkswagen, Timo and I grew together as a team. That was our major goal and we achieved it. We’re ready for the ‘Dakar.’”
Timo Gottschalk: "We fought a great duel with Carlos and Lucas and led the rally for a long time. I feel particularly sorry for the team, which did a great job day by day, that we didn’t quite make it in the end. But we proved that we’re serious contenders. Our time will come.”

Provisional final standings Silk Way Rally
1 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, 24h 12m 21s
2 Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, +21 m 52s
3 Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, +28 m 09s
4 Ruslan Misikov/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS), Nissan, +4h 44m 04s
5 Ilya Kuznetsov/ Andrey Neshin (RUS/RUS), Mitsubishi, +5h 23m 30s
6 Maris Saukans/Didzis Zarnis (LV/LV), OSC, +6h 06m 56s
7 Alexey Berkut/Konstantin Meshcheryakov (RUS/RUS), Mitsubishi, +6h 12m 25s
8 Benediktas Vanagas/Saulius Jurgelenas (LT/LT), OSC, +6h 26m 11s
9 Raz Heymann/Hillel Segal (ISR/ISR), Mitsubishi, +8h 17m3 5s
10 Bodgan Novytskyi/Iurii Kondratiiev (UKR/UKR), Mitsubishi, +10h 20m 01s

2009/09/14 | 11:50 CET | Editor: MR/Volkswagen/Rita Konya

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