Volkswagen driver Sainz extends lead at "Dakar"
Wolfsburg (07 January 2010). Volkswagen continues leading the 2010 Dakar Rally after the sixth of 14 stages with three Race Touareg cars. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (E/E), who had taken the lead the day before, extended their
advantage in the Race Touareg from 4m 37s to 15m 24s. Their team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) continue ranking as the overall runners-up ahead of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in another Race Touareg.
Almost up to the finish of the 418-kilometre stage from Antofagasta to Iquique in Chile's Atacama desert it looked as though Miller/Pitchford had taken second place overall. However, on the final 25 kilometres their temporary advantage in the overall standings of 3m 19s over Al-Attiyah changed to a gap of 2m 23s behind Al-Attiyah.
The sixth "Dakar" leg between Antofagasta and Iquique was marked by constantly changing terrain. Besides vast expanses the day featured winding passages across gravel as well. The leg ended with a spectacular downhill finish to the rally bivouac from a dune situated in front of the coast at which the participants ran 600 metres downhill within just a few seconds at speeds of up to 180 km/h.
Volkswagen, however, also suffered a set-back on the sixth leg: The Brazilian duo Mauricio Neves/Clecio Maestrelli retired from the event after rolling over. The driver and co-driver are in good condition considering the circumstances. As a precautionary measure, Mauricio Neves was taken to a hospital for a check where he was diagnosed as having fractured two ribs.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"On the sporting level the day went well for us. The three leading Race Touareg cars made it through the stage alright although it must have been an extremely difficult leg, according to the drivers. The navigation was difficult and the powdery fech-fech sand put high demands on the drivers. Tomorrow we must get through the 600-kilometre - and thus longest - special of the rally before the rest day in good shape. Today's leg also involved a bit of a shock for us: Our Brazilian duo experienced a severe roll-over. While co-driver Clecio Maestrelli sustained no injuries, driver Mauricio Neves complained about chest pains and was therefore taken to a hospital for a medical examination. The fact that neither of them suffered any serious injuries shows that the Race Touareg's build is very strong and sturdy."
#300 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 8th place leg / 16th place overall
"Starting so far at the back after yesterday's loss of time was no gift to us. The dust was extreme and it was nearly impossible to overtake safely. After 135 kilometres we arrived at the scene of Mauricio and Clecio's accident and stopped there for almost half an hour to call the helicopter and assist them. Afterwards just finishing the stage was the only thing that counted for us yet again. But the last ten kilometres in the dunes were simply incredible and really good fun."
#303 - Carlos Sainz (E), 2nd place leg / 1st place overall
"Today's leg was even more demanding than those on the days before. Particularly with respect to navigation it was possible to lose a lot of time. We still haven't covered even half of the 'Dakar' yet, so during the next few days the same thing will apply that I took to heart today: to drive in a way that's as easy as possible on the material and to think one day at a time."
#305 - Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place leg / 3rd place overall
"Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time right in the beginning today because we had to look for the way. I don't mean to blame my co-driver Ralph Pitchford for this because the road-book was not very precise today. But all in all I'm happy. And particularly the final shot was a good reward for today's hard labour: thousands of spectators and a steep downhill drive towards the ocean, with the bivouac in front of our eyes. That was a massive surge of adrenaline."
#306 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 4th place leg / 2nd place overall
"Particularly for the co-drivers today wasn't easy. There were many places where you could lose time looking for the way. That's exactly what happened to us too. Nevertheless, I'm pleased with the stage result, considering the circumstances. Our tactics won't change in any way: We'll remain concentrated and cautious. But maybe we can still recover some time in the next few days anyhow."
Number of the day
Up to today's sixth leg of the 2010 edition, Volkswagen has completed 101,213 kilometres of special stages at a total of six "Dakar" events since 2004. This means that the Race Touareg vehicles, in total, are now within the six-digit range for the first time since the project was launched in 2004. This distance roughly corresponds to circling the earth two and a half times along the equator.
Did you know that ...
... the former Volkswagen factory driver and current "Dakar" contender Robby Gordon treated every member of the Wolfsburg factory squad to a round of ice cream on the fourth rally day? At the past Dakar Rally the American had been invited by Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen and his team despite an extremely narrow stage defeat - and reciprocated the invitation for 85 Volkswagen team members on the occasion of his first stage win in 2010.
... every Race Touareg has a small spare parts kit on board during the stages in case of an emergency? Depending on the characteristics of the special, steering arms, wishbones or supporting ball joints (a connecting component between the hub carrier and wishbones), among other things, for exchange after an accident are accommodated in the side skirts of the 300-hp Race Touareg. In case of particularly rough legs the five factory duos carry a drive shaft with them the design of which is identical for all four wheels of the all-wheel drive vehicle.
... on legs featuring particularly heavy natural vegetation a fully fledged machete is part of the tools on board of the Race Touareg cars? It enables Giniel de Villiers, Carlos Sainz and company to cut their way through the underbrush if needed.
Coming up next --
Friday, 08 January: 7th leg, Iquique (RCH)-Antofagasta (RCH). Before the rest day, the organisers of the Dakar Rally, the A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation), have scheduled a veritable marathon. The way through the Atacama desert back to Antofagasta includes a 600-kilometre special stage and is thus the longest timed section of the 2010 "Dakar". Before the participants have earned a one-day break from the rally they will yet again be taken to their physical limits.