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Transiberico: Volkswagen contests rally with de Villiers and Kahle.

With South African Giniel de Villiers and, for the first time, German Matthias Kahle at the wheel, Volkswagen will participate in the Transiberico Rally through Portugal and Spain from 12 to 16 May. In the third round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup Giniel de Villiers, who finished the Dakar Rally in January as the runner-up in the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, will again form a team with the German Dirk von Zitzewitz. The six-time German Rally Champion Matthias Kahle in his debut in the Race Touareg will be relying on the navigation of two-time Dakar winner Andy Schulz.

"Competitions are the best tests for ‘man and material’," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "The Rally Transiberico in Portugal and Spain marks the continuation of our preparation programme for the 2007 Dakar Rally. The ‘Transiberico’ with its legs that tend to resemble the roads of classical rallies fits our development programme very well. Particularly considering the fact that the first legs of the 2007 Dakar Rally will probably lead through Portugal again, we are hoping to gain important findings." As before in the Tunisian Rally in April, Volkswagen will meet the Mitsubishi works team in the Transiberico Rally, too.

With six titles under his belt, Matthias Kahle, who lives in Cologne, is the most successful driver of all times in the German Rally Championship. In the 2006 season he is contesting the newly created German Rally Series (DRS) as a Skoda factory driver. In his previous stints with privately fielded vehicles in marathon rallying the professional rally driver attracted attention to himself. During the Dakar Rally in January he was running among the top ten at times. "Matthias impressed us during the tests in Tunisia. We would like to give him the opportunity to get to know the Race Touareg and the team in the conditions of a competition," says Kris Nissen. "Matthias has been loaned to us by Skoda. He has lots of all-wheel-drive experience and, at 37, the perfect age for this sport. The decision about further stints in the Race Touareg will be taken at a later time."

Matthias Kahle is looking forward to his debut: "During the tests I immediately felt very comfortable at the wheel of the Race Touareg. Now I’m very eager to see where I stand in comparison with the competition. I’m particularly delighted to have a very experienced co-driver - Andy Schulz - at my side."

Not only for Matthias Kahle but for his team-mates Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, who last finished second overall in the Tunisia Rally, the Transiberico Rally is new territory, as well. "I’m assuming, though, that the stretches will be very similar to those of the Dakar Rally’s first legs," says Giniel de Villiers. Co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz adds, "These narrow tracks through fields and forests tend to be more comparable with classical rally stages. Because of the many directional changes, the navigation is very demanding. Unlike the orientation required during desert rallies, precise instructions by the co-driver are particularly important in this case."

The Transiberico Rally which starts in Mafra, north of the Portugese capital of Lisbon, on 12 May, begins with a Super Special, followed by three further legs via Estoril, Évora and Caceres back to Estoril, where the podium ceremony is scheduled to take place in front of the casino at 12.30 on 16 May.

In Tunisia Volkswagen tested further developments of the suspension in April. These will be put to the test in competition conditions during the Transiberico Rally. "We want to test these evolutions, which proved to be very good on sand, on gravel now," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "Because the improved suspension results in better grip, greater acceleration and higher speeds, the load on the brakes is particularly high. Since the brakes, which in marathon rally racing have relatively small dimensions in relation to the size and weight of the vehicle, are a major success factor in the Dakar Rally, as well, we have intensified our efforts in this area."

2006/05/14 I 22:50 CET I Editor:

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