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Volkswagen stage 8 report
Good start to second-half: Volkswagen defends first three places

Wolfsburg (10 January 2010). Three "Blues" top the leader board: Volkswagen comfortably defended its first three positions overall on the Dakar Rally's eighth stage between Antofagasta to Copiapo. Carlos Sainz/Lucas
Cruz (E/E) finished second on the day and continue to hold the overall lead by 14 minutes 35 seconds ahead of their team mates Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) and 22 minutes 28 seconds in front of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA).

The rally professionals staged and open head-to-head battle throughout the 472 kilometre long and extremely tough stage through Chile. The official time keeping recorded no less than four changes to the lead. To start, the X-raid BMW drivers Guerlain Chicherit (F) and Stephane Peterhansel (F) exchanged places up until the mid-point of the stage before Mark Miller assumed the lead for Volkswagen. Then last year's winners Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) took control of proceedings in the fourth Race Touareg before they were caught by Peterhansel just short of the finish line after suffering their second puncture. Peterhansel, who also complained of a tyre failure, nevertheless moved up to fourth place overall as closest rival to the Volkswagen trio almost two hours behind. After suffering two punctures each Sainz, Miller, de Villiers and Al-Attiyah took second to fifth on the day separated by 3 minutes 32 seconds.

The eighth "Dakar" day was dominated by a near 400 kilometre long, extremely stony section. Large boulders and trial-like passages made this part of the 472 kilometre long special stage into a real challenge for suspension and tyres. Constant changes of rhythm demanded permanent concentration from the drivers and navigators. A dune section of soft sand ended the stage between Antofagasta and Copiapo.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"A perfect day as all four Race Touaregs ran fantastically and we are still at the top of the leader board with all three cars. Today we experienced one of the most difficult stages overall. The stage was particularly hard to the suspension and tyres. The stage did however show the exceedingly high-quality of work done by our mechanics on the rest day. Our drivers were given perfect material for today and the Race Touareg once again demonstrated just how extremely robust and reliable it is."

#300 - Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 4th place day / 9th position overall
"That was by far the most picturesque and difficult stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally so far. Fields of scree, canyons and at the end plenty of sand and of course many changes in rhythm between fast and slow sections - this is exactly how 'Dakar' stages must be made. Unfortunately Lady Luck has deserted us during this rally. We could have won today's stage but two punctures put paid to this. With a little more luck our slow puncture, which had already held several hundreds of kilometres, would not have needed changing only 30 kilometres before the finish ..."

#303 - Carlos Sainz (E), 2nd place day / 1st position overall
"I've never seen so many stones in my entire life. Almost the entire stage - apart from the last belt of dunes - consisted from gravel and extremely large boulders. Unfortunately we had a tyre failure right at the beginning and we had to use our second spare tyre almost 200 kilometres before the finish. This also meant that we had to approach the final section extremely cautiously. It's a great relief to be at the front still after this tough and demanding stage."

#305 - Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place day / 3rd position overall
"An extremely varied day. Not just as far as the landscape was concerned but also from the sporting point of view. We overtook Carlos Sainz and Guerlain Chicherit in his X-raid BMW several times during the stage, however punctures constantly mixed up the running order on the route. In the road book this morning it looked as if the first section of 40 kilometres would be stony. Fact is, however, it was 400 kilometres of stones, stones and even more stones. This caused us to have two punctures."

#306 - Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 5th place day / 2nd position overall
"You can describe today's stage particularly well with the word 'stony'. Many gravel fields, many slow passages but also constant changes in rhythm to fast sections. We had to change a punctured tyre twice, and we also got bogged down in the final dune section. All in all we didn't lose too much time to our team mate Carlos Sainz and we are happy to have put this extremely hard stage behind us without a single mechanical problem."

Number of the day

On the eighth stage between Antofagasta and Copiapo the Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz changed gear 2,066 times. The Spaniard completed 38 per cent of the distance in fifth gear, 33 of the hundred in the fourth gear. Sainz drove 21 per cent of the 472 special stage kilometres in third, six in second gear and two per cent in first gear.

From the Volkswagen bivouac

- High ranking visit: Chile's President Michelle Bachelet visits Volkswagen Chiles President Michelle Bachelet used the 2010 Dakar Rally's rest day in Antofagasta to look around the Volkswagen factory team's bivouac. The former paediatrician formed a picture of the routine work at Volkswagen and was explained the ins and outs of the 300 hp Race Touareg by Carlos Sainz.

- Like a hurricane: "Scorpion" Rudolf Schenker rocks the Dakar Rally Rock musician Rudolf Schenker from the "Scorpions" gave the Volkswagen factory team a musical delicacy. During the rest day the guitarist of the Hanover based band got to grips with the new Amarok, which celebrated its premiere at the Dakar Rally in the form of a specially adapted version. In addition, the 61-year old harvested the applause of the impressed 85 team members and other guests following a spontaneous guitar solo in the Volkswagen bivouac.

- "Dakar" winner among "Dakar" winners: Jacky Ickx guest at Volkswagen Among the Volkswagen guests during the rest day in Antofagasta was motorsport legend Jacky Ickx. The former Formula 1 driver, six-time Le Mans winner and "Dakar" winner from 1983 remains a great fan of the off-road sport. "The drivers' performance is incredible," says Ickx. "However you should never forget that the co-drivers are just as important as the drivers themselves. And particularly on the rest day it is great to watch the unsung heroes behind the success at work: the mechanics."

Coming up --

Monday, 11 January: 9th leg, Copiapo (RCH)-La Serena (RCH). On the one hand hard, stony, off-road sections and, on the other, fast sections over gravel - the stage between Copiapo and the seaside resort makes the same demands of men and machine. On the ninth stage of the "Dakar" the navigators are in demand: Innumerable junctions in canyons must be taken correctly so as not to lose any time.

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