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Transiberico: De Villiers: "We pushed to the finish for the win"

Volkswagen factory driver Giniel de Villiers from South Africa and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz mounted the podium as winners of the Rally Transibérico, round three of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, on Tuesday in the shadow of the Casino in Estoril, Portugal. In the Volkswagen Race Touareg the 34-year old Giniel de Villiers, who was second in the Dakar Rally, came out on top in a nail-biting finale with an advantage of 24 seconds over Spaniard Nani Roma (Mitsubishi). The winners’ podium was completed by Dakar winner Luc Alphand (France, Mitsubishi), who crossed the finish line 15 minutes behind after 2076 kilometres. The German Matthias Kahle finished fourth on his debut in the Volkswagen Race Touareg with fellow countryman co-driver Andy Schulz.

Interview with Volkswagen factory driver Giniel de Villiers:

What was it like to take your first victory in the Volkswagen Race Touareg at the Rally Transibérico?

Giniel de Villiers: "It was an unbelievable rally. At first I could hardly believe I’d won. On the morning of the last leg we were lying 25 seconds behind Nani Roma. On the first stage we were one second slower, and ten seconds behind him on the second. On the last stage we pushed really hard for the last time. We whittled the gap down to seven seconds just before we swiped a tree. Afterwards we pushed like crazy. All of sudden I saw Roma’s dust cloud and hoped that we had pulled back enough time to take the victory. However, it was only at the finish line that I realised we had really won."

Which developments has the Volkswagen Motorsport team undergone?

Giniel de Villiers: "The Race Touareg and also the entire team are getting better and stronger all the time. We have completed several tests since the Dakar Rally, for example for the Rally Transibérico we had a new development in the braking system that worked very well here. However, the Volkswagen Race Touareg and also the Mitsubishi are at a very high-level, so we only make small steps forward. The entire team is extremely motivated and works very hard to squeeze out the last few tenths."

You were also highly motivated. Where did you squeeze the decisive couple if seconds from during the Rally Transibérico?

Giniel de Villiers: "You should never, ever give up. You have to push until you are within sight of the finish. I’ve been around in this sport for so long and have experienced this several times. When you do everything possible success will also follow, and this time lady luck was on our side. It was a fight for seconds, and in the end we came away with the spoils. It’s absolutely fantastic to be rewarded in this way."

It was only the second rally with your co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz. How are you getting on together?

Giniel de Villiers: "We really get on very well together. We had a super rally. Dirk did a great job, especially on the first day when he was suffering from dyspepsia on the 255 kilometre long stage and, in spite of this we set the quickest time on the first stage. When we were in the cockpit I was aware that he wasn’t feeling well, but Dirk behaved so professionally that I continued and didn’t even cast another glance in his direction."

Does the win give you extra confidence for the 2007 Dakar Rally?

Giniel de Villiers: "The Rallye Transibérico was completely different to the Dakar Rally. However, such a win gives the driver, co-driver and the entire team a boost of self-confidence and fresh motivation. Winning is always a great feeling."

You currently have a busy schedule. This coming weekend you make a ‘wild card’ start in the Volkswagen Polo Cup?

Giniel de Villiers: "I’m currently very busy and I enjoy it. Two weeks ago I was invited to the Formula 1 race at the Nürburgring by our team sponsor Red Bull, which was followed by the Rally Transibérico and this coming weekend both my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and I compete in the Polo-Cup in Oschersleben. I’ll experience three different motorsport disciplines in as many weekends. The Polo-Cup race is purely fun for me. I drove the Race-Polo already last year; it’s a good little car which is easy to drive. However, this ‘star of tomorrow’ series is very tough and the guys and girls are very determined. I’ll really have to try hard and make sure that my co-driver doesn’t overtake me."

2006/05/16 I 22:55 CET I Editor:

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