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Volkswagen stage 4 report
Volkswagen trio remains at Dakar Rally's front of the field

Wolfsburg (05 January 2010). After a successful beginning in Argentina, Volkswagen has proved the qualities of the Race Touareg on the first Chilean leg of the 2010 Dakar Rally as well. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk
(Q/D) achieved third place at the demanding crossing of the Andes on the fourth leg from Fiambala to Copiapo with a gap of 2m 26s behind the stage winners Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA) in the Hummer and Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F) from the X-raid team.

In the following places, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E), Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in the Race Touareg with TDI power completed Volkswagen's successful stage. Mauricio Neves/Clecio Maestrelli (BR/BR) reached the stage destination for Volkswagen in tenth place. At an average speed of 95.15 km/h Al-Attiyah as the best Volkswagen driver was clearly faster than on the previous day's stage, which featured lots of dunes and was run at a speed that, on average, was about 35 km/h slower.

After four of the 14 stages Stephane Peterhansel continues ranking in front of the Volkswagen trio Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mark Miller while Mauricio Neves is in tenth place overall. After achieving a fifth-place finish today, last year's winners Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, who had dropped back the day before due to electrical damage - as a result of an accident - came back with a top position in the Race Touareg.

In view of the high level of difficulty of yesterday's stage and the fact that various participants had not even arrived at the previous leg's finish during the night the organiser decided to shorten today's stage. As a result, the fourth special stage only encompassed the first 163 of the planned 203 kilometres.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"It was a thrilling day which Robby Gordon finished as the surprise winner. All five Volkswagen vehicles reached the finish among the top eight cars. The five Race Touareg vehicles were running without the slightest technical problems. This means we're fully on schedule. And we're pleased to see that the Dakar Rally is such an exciting and open race."

#300 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 5th place leg / 20th place overall
"After yesterday's electrical problem I started far at the rear of the field today and had to overtake many cars. That's why I had to struggle a bit with dust. In addition, I must have caught a cold and started to the special stage with a headache. Every pothole hurts twice as much in that case. Aside from that, it was a great day. The car is running flawlessly."

#303 - Carlos Sainz (E), 4th place leg / 2nd place overall
"The leg today tended to be one of the faster types on which we had no problems whatsoever. On the contrary: The Race Touareg was running like a charm today. In one of the situations we lost some time because at a tricky place we weren't sure whether or not we'd taken the right way. So we decided to play it safe there, but that wasn't the quickest option."

#305 - Mark Miller (USA), 6th place leg / 4th place overall
"That was probably not the strongest stage for us because we got stuck on a dune for a few minutes. It wasn't really deep but enough to lose a lot of time. That was my fault because I may have been too cautious in that place. We had to get out of the car and jack it up to free it. That explains our loss of time."

#306 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 3rd place leg / 3rd place overall
"Today, we had a bit of bad luck again. A slow puncture cost us a lot of time. But we decided not to change the tyre and, instead, added more air. Unfortunately, we had to stop twice, so this decision didn't pay off. I'm sure that otherwise I could have won the special. Consequently, I'm a bit disappointed."

#312 - Mauricio Neves (BR), 10th place leg / 10th place overall
"That's what 'Dakar' days should be like. Gravel stretches on slippery sections, downhill passages and beautiful dune crossings - a landscape right out of a picture book. To experience all this with the Race Touareg is simply fantastic. Unfortunately, we again caught a puncture today - if we hadn't, our result might well have been better."

Number of the day

Six to seven hours of film footage is transmitted by the "Dakar" organiser A.S.O. to 190 countries every day. In addition, 13 cameras are being used, three of them in helicopters, five during the special stages, two at the stage finishes and three at the bivouac. The pictures are transmitted to the bivouac via three satellite uplink stations and edited at 18 cutting stations using a server with a data capacity of 19 terra-bytes. A total of 115 people are assigned to support the international feed of TV footage distributed worldwide. In addition, there are the accredited camera teams producing their own footage on location for 19 TV channels.

From the Volkswagen bivouac

- 1999, 2009, 2010 - reunited in the Volkswagen team Timo Gottschalk has been able to rely on the support of an old buddy since March 2008: One of his mechanics serving the Race Touareg designated as car number 306 is Niklas Birr. In 1999 the two Berliners contested their first ever world championship rally together in the SEAT Ibiza Cupra according to the Group N regulations in Corsica, with Birr as the driver and Gottschalk as the co-driver. "Timo was exceptionally well prepared at that time too," recalls Birr who has been working with the "Dakar" in 2009 and 2010 as a mechanic for Gottschalk's car. "Even back then his dream was to become a professional co-driver." Gottschalk, too, has fond memories of his first WRC rally in Corsica. "That was our first international appearance, so it was very exciting," says Gottschalk. "I think we managed attracting attention by setting a couple of good stage times and a seventh-place finish in our class."

- Hot greetings: 58-degree difference between temperatures at Wolfsburg and Fiambala The heat around Fiambala and Copiapo put a heavy strain on "man and material" on the third and fourth legs. On the way to Fiambala the sensors of the Race Touareg in the air inlet system logged a peak ambient temperature of 48 degrees Celsius. For Volkswagen Motorsport this marks a particularly stark contrast: The team members who had helped to prepare the "Dakar" but stayed in Wolfsburg were struggling with snow and ice at minus 10 degrees Celsius back home - a temperature difference of 58 degrees.

- Rubber stamp: special souvenirs in the passport The "Dakar" participants and their service crews are having a unique souvenir stamped into their passports at the two border crossings between Argentina and Chile. The first clearing of customs during the 2010 "Dakar" took place at the first crossing of the Andes from Fiambala to Copiapo. The official act was certified with a stamp specially made for the world's toughest rally, adorned with the words "Rally Dakar Argentina-Chile" and the Dakar Rally's logo.

Coming up next --

Wednesday, 06 January: 5th leg, Copiapo (RCH)-Antofagasta (RCH). The first day of an extremely tough desert four-pack will start with a 483-kilometre special stage - the second-longest one of the first "Dakar" week. Drivers and technical crews should be prepared for many sandy passages with dune crossings at high altitudes. But the Atacama desert also offers gravel and scree passages to challenge drivers and co-drivers.

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