Dakar : Volkswagen Motorsport - Leg 12
Volkswagen maintained a one-two lead on what proved to be the Dakar Rally's most turbulent day so far. On the twelfth of 14 legs Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in the Race Touareg took the lead in front of their team-mates
Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA).
Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F), who had been leading the rally ever since the seventh leg, retired after an accident. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) reached the stage finish in La Rioja in fourth place and thus improved to sixth position in the overall standings.
The 223-kilometre special stage from Fiambala to La Rioja saw not just one but two changes in the lead in the desert classic. Sainz/Périn had an accident after 79 kilometres and the duo was fored to retire due to Michel Périn having suffered a broken shoulder blade. On the special stage and in the virtual interim classification Miller/Pitchford were running in front over long distances and maintained their lead almost up to the final dune belt of the stage. But then de Villiers/von Zitzewitz converted the 2m18s gap into a stage lead of 16m17s, thanks to good navigating. They thus took over first place overall as well and, before the last two legs, are running 2m35s in front of Miller/Pitchford, who are also driving a Race Touareg powered by 280 hp.
After the Spaniards Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz in the field of those chasing the front runners, as the only remaining Mitsubishi duo, encountered technical problems, Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA) in the Hummer are now in third place overall. However, they are lacking as much as 1h18m to the leading Volkswagen.
Kris Nissen(Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"The most important news is that the accident of Carlos Sainz and Michel Périn did not result in any severe personal injuries. Both of them are very disappointed that the ‘Dakar' is over for them, but at the same time they're relieved that with a shoulder injury for Michel the incident did not result in really serious consequences. We wish Michel a speedy recovery. But – we knew that to win, we'd first have to overcome the ‘Dakar' itself. With Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford we've still got two irons in the fire to win the Dakar Rally with the Race Touareg and TDI power.”
N°301 – Carlos Sainz
"Suddenly, a four-metre deep hole appeared in front of us. We fell into it and landed on our roof. A BMW and Nani Roma were able to get around us at the last moment. The BMW team stopped and helped us to put the car back on its wheels. In the meantime an ASO doctor had arrived who briefly checked Michel Périn and barred him from continuing the drive on account of a shoulder injury. The Race Touareg was by and large okay, the engine was running. Of course we were lucky in this situation as well. I'm very disappointed and I'm very sorry for the team that we're out, but I'm hoping that our team will win in the end anyhow.”
N°301 – Michel Périn co-driver
"About 30 kilometres before our accident we'd lost our way but soon found the right route again. We were heading towards the next waypoint, I counted down the distance – as always – and just as I was saying ‘20 metres' we dropped into this whole. Even the days before, the roadbook had not been particularly accurate and today we paid the price for it. I broke a shoulder blade in the accident and that ended the rally for me and Carlos. I'm very sorry for the team. But I'm hoping that in the end a ‘blue' vehicle will finish in front.”
N°305 – Giniel de Villiers
"It was an incredibly rough day for us. Although the special stage today was short, it was extremely slow. The organiser selected routes with large stones, deep and super-soft sand. In addition, there were some places left out in the roadbook, which of course made the navigation extremely difficult. But about five kilometres before the finish my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz made up a lot of time for us when he found the quickest way while others were still looking for it.”
N°307 – Dieter Depping
"I think today wasn't just 100 per cent ‘Dakar', it was more like 120 per cent ‘Dakar'. The dunes were incredibly hard to handle, lots of vegetation that made life difficult for us, and we had to cross riverbeds several times. My co-driver Timo Gottschalk had his work cut out for him. Many branch-offs were hard to see and the roadbook led us astray several times today as well. So, today had everything a rally day could offer.”
N°308 – Mark Miller
"Today is one of those days where there's a lot to talk about. The special stage has definitely been the most difficult one of this ‘Dakar' so far. Particularly in the sand we had to work hard, we got stuck several times and had to dig ourselves out. On several occasions we let some air out of the tyres and filled them up again after the difficult passages. Once we got stuck, and when I left the car I only then realized we'd lost the rear part of the body – I haven't noticed beforehand that we'd lost it at all. We were leading for a long time, but lost time again at the end. The overall gap between me and my team colleague Giniel de Villiers is small now – but the main thing is that a Volkswagen will be in front in the end.”