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A stage perfectly adapted to Sainz
Dakar - Cars - Leg 8
Uncontestably, Sunday's route was practically tailor-made for Carlos Sainz: the Spaniard and his VW Race Touareg excelled in these almost WRC-like trails where a mix of speedy and technical know-how was required.

"In fact, this stage was very
much like a traditional rally stage," said double World Rally Championship winner Sainz. "It was very nice, very slippery and sometimes quite tricky. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I hope that we'll carry on being as successful as we have been today."

The stage's podium was an all-Volkswagen operation today, with teammates Derek Depping and Mark Miller being the second and third-fastest drivers after Sainz. If in Africa the podiums are often red, in South America they appear blue.

"As long as the rally isn't over, then nothing is certain," mentioned Sainz.

Fastest of the day, rally leader Sainz displayed a sense of serenity, the sort that can only spike up the pressure for overall second-placed Volkswagen teammate Giniel de Villiers, who did not perform as well today. Upon reaching La Serena at the end of the 294-kilometre trek, the slim nine seconds which separated Sainz from de Villiers had grown to 10'57" overall.

However, team boss Kriss Nissen declared that both men know enough not to put in jeopardy the German constructors' almost assured maiden Dakar Rally victory.

Mark Miller's VW Touareg maintained its third position in the general standings, with the Mitsubishi Lancer of Nani Roma now only 4'15" adrift, putting a hold on the notion of an "easy" all-Volkswagen Dakar victory podium next week-end.

"At every turn there was a chance to ruin your race," commented Miller. "It was difficult for me, but I did better than I expected so it was a success for me."

Fifth overall, Robby Gordon's Hummer is over 90 minutes behind the rally leader.

The battle will continue at the top tomorrow between the Volkswagen teammates, unless Mitsubishi's Nani Roma manages to join the fray somewhere between La Serena and Copiapo.

"We changed a front wheel and re-inflated a rear tire, so we lost quite a bit of time," reported Roma. "As regards the gap at the end, after what happened on the stage, it's not bad at all."

"Anyway, in rally-raids there are always surprises," he pointed out. "Just wait and see."
Marie-France Estenave

     That's two for Despres
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     Peterhansel leaves the Dakar
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     Mitsubishi Dakar destiny rests with Nani Roma
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     Open road for VW at the Dakar Rally
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