Just like in the old days, says Volkswagen driver
Volkswagen finishes the 2007 season in cross-country rally sport in preparation for the 2008 Dakar Rally with an impressive title win: In the UAE Desert Challenge, which marked the 20th competition of the Race Touareg, Volkswagen
factory driver Carlos Sainz won the drivers' classification in the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup.
For the Spaniard, who clinched the FIA drivers' World Championship title in classic rally sport in 1990 and 1992, this is the first title in his new discipline, cross-country rally racing.
For Volkswagen and the Race Touareg powered by a 280-hp 2.5-litre TDI engine, it is the second title win after 2005. Back then, as well as today, co-driver Michel Périn was the navigator in the most successful Race Touareg. After 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2005, the Frenchman celebrated his sixth FIA title exploit in the co-drivers' classification. In addition, Volkswagen Motorsport secured the title in the team classification.
"This is a well-deserved and nice result for a team that is working so hard and systematically to prepare for the 2008 Dakar Rally. Sincere congratulations to Carlos and Michel on winning the title. It is nice that we also won the team classification – this is both rewarding and motivating," said a pleased Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen at the UAE Desert Challenge finish.
"I'm particularly delighted, considering the conditions in which we had to prove ourselves.
The rally was incredibly tough and none of the three top teams which fought for the title was spared setbacks," he added.
Sainz and de Villiers finish the dramatic UAE Desert Challenge on the podium
The UAE Desert Challenge was not only a season finale befitting the calibre of the title contenders from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and X-raid-BMW, but it was also the toughest round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup 2007. At outside temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius the technology was pushed to the limits and so were the crews – a number of people suffered from nausea and exhaustion.
The heat also clearly affected the track conditions: The sand in the Arab deserts turned so soft that traction became the key word. Kris Nissen: "In the past, we'd have difficulties in such conditions at times. This makes the fact that we won the title with Carlos Sainz's second place overall and were the only one of the three top teams to have all three cars finish the event even more rewarding. This has been an ideal preparation for the conditions at the 2008 Dakar Rally."
The season in the Cross-Country World Cup was exciting from the very first round: At the opening event, the Transibérico Rally in Portugal, Volkswagen, with Carlos Sainz, relegated the two Mitsubishi drivers Nani Roma and Luc Alphand to places two and four. BMW driver Paulo Nobre, with third-place finishes at the second round in South Africa and the third in South America in the absence of Volkswagen, scored valuable points in the title fight, while Mitsubishi driver Luc Alphand won in South America.
In Morocco, Volkswagen with Giniel de Villiers and Carlos Sainz managed to claim a one-two victory – it was as much as the seventh overall win of the Race Touareg since 2004. The statistics are completed by 24 podium positions and 61 stage victories.
Sainz started to the finale as the leader of the standings and his closest rivals, Alphand and Nobre, followed within eight points. Giniel de Villiers in fourth place had chances of winning the title as well. As early as on the first leg Nobre lost a lot of ground while Sainz kept fighting for first place with Alphand, up to the penultimate stage, and was the front runner in the standings up to that point.
When the Mitsubishi driver was forced to retire after one of his wheels had broken off there was no stopping Sainz anymore. At the season's finale, with the start and finish in Dubai, Sainz was joined on the podium by de Villiers. This meant that the South African and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz also claimed the "title" of the runner-up in the fiercely contested World Cup for Volkswagen.
Fun like in the "old days": Sainz as World Rally Champion is World Cup winner as well
"I'm incredibly happy about my third FIA title and my first exploit in the Cross-Country Rally World Cup," said Carlos Sainz, who switched to Volkswagen in this discipline in 2005.
"Although a season consists of much fewer rounds than a classical World Rally Championship, these rounds are much longer and incredibly tougher. A big thank you from me to Volkswagen and to my co-driver Michel Périn for their good work! This provided the basis for this success. All the way to the end I had to fight so hard for a title. It was huge fun – just like in the old days," he enthused.
Sainz is one of only two former World Rally Champions who have clinched a title in cross-country rally sport. Of the 16 World Champions who have been crowned since 1979, seven have also tried their skills in the desert discipline.
Co-driver Michel Périn, who celebrated 25 single wins in his career and who, with six titles under his belt, is the most successful co-driver of all time, added: "It was rewarding to help familiarise someone like Carlos with our sport over the past few years and to celebrate these exploits with him. He's an absolute professional who carefully approaches the limits with perfection. The World Cup victory shows that he is capable of switching disciplines at an equal level of accomplishment."
The countdown is running: Only 63 days until the start of the 2008 Dakar Rally
The Volkswagen team headed by Motorsport Director Kris Nissen has no time to celebrate. Only 63 days from now, on 5 January, the 30th edition of the world famous Dakar Rally will start in Lisbon. "We are now fully focusing on the preparation of our Race Touareg, the preparation of our drivers and co-drivers as well as all team members," said Kris Nissen.
"After the UAE Desert Challenge I'm more convinced than ever that we will be seeing a very tough Dakar, with fierce competition and an enormously demanding route," he predecited.
In the Dakar Rally, which will end in Senegal after a total of about 9,000 kilometres on 20 January, Volkswagen will be fielding four Race Touareg vehicles, for Sainz/Périn and de Villiers/von Zitzewitz as well as for Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) and Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (both from Germany).
The cockpit of another Race Touareg sporting the colours of the customer team Lagos will be occupied by Carlos Sousa (Portugal) and Andy Schulz (Germany).
Source Volkswagen Motorsport