Tunisia : Volkswagen Motorsport - Leg 7
Volkswagen works driver Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz in the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 finished the Tunisia Rally in second place. By clinching stage victory on the seventh and final leg of the FIA Cross Country
Rally World Cup's second round, the South African-German duo defended their podium position behind overall winner Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi) and ahead of Jean-Louis Schlesser (Schlesser-Ford). On the 293-kilometre final stage from Ksar Ghilane to the tourist centre of Djerba, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz had a 2.18-minute lead over Jean-Louis Schlesser, the runner-up of the day.
Giniel de Villiers, who had finished the Dakar Rally in January as the runner-up with a small gap to the winner, contested his first rally with co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, who had shared a Race Touareg cockpit in the ‘Dakar' with the American Mark Miller. In Tunisia, the newly formed team clinched a special stage victory on the third and seventh legs respectively, running in second place overall ever since the rally's third leg. Their Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 completed the seven special stages across a total distance of 2,043 kilometres in heat, rain and heavy wind across sand, dirt roads and camel grass without a single technical defect.
Volkswagen team-mate Carlos Sainz (Spain) in the second Volkswagen Race Touareg 2, who – along with his new co-driver Michel Périn (France) – had captured the lead in the prologue in Nice by clocking the fastest time, was lying in fifth place when he retired on the fourth special stage after a roll-over.
One day before, Sainz and Périn had gotten stuck in deep sand following a navigation error during their first joint rally, which cost them their third place.
For the Race Touareg powered by a 275-hp 2.5-litre TDI diesel engine, this was the twelfth rally competition and 14th podium finish. Altogether, the prototype's track record reflects 31 stage victories.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director )
"The Tunisia Rally was exactly the way we'd expected it, except for the first days when it was a bit cold. We encountered lots of sand, dunes, camel grass and extreme heat here – and that's what we'd been looking for. The Race Touareg 2 had nearly the same standing as in the Dakar Rally in January. After the Tunisia Rally we're going to test and try out several technical evolutions. We were satisfied with the Race Touareg's performance, we were among those fighting for the stage wins almost throughout the entire event and clinched three stage victories. Three Mitsubishi cars contested the Tunisia Rally and one of them made it to the finish, two Volkswagen vehicles competed in this rally, and one car finished as well. This shows how extremely tough and demanding this rally is."
#201 – Giniel de Villiers – 2nd place overall
"It was a great rally with a great result. The Race Touareg ran like a charm across the whole distance. I'm happy that our performance is close to that of Mitsubishi. We know where we need to look to come up with that last iota, because on camel grass we need to develop further in terms of our chassis. Unfortunately in the beginning of the rally, we lost time as a result of two punctures and a navigation error. Otherwise there would have been more in it for us.”
#201 – Dirk von Zitzewitz – co-driver
"My first joint rally with Giniel de Villiers went very well. With two stage victories, we exerted pressure on Mitsubishi. In the cockpit, Giniel and I are working together very harmoniously already. I was positively surprised about how quickly Giniel carried out my commands. I've never experienced this with any other driver in such a way."
#203 – Carlos Sainz - retired
"The positive fact was that we had the opportunity here to cover further mileage with the Race Touareg 2 and to gain additional important experience on sand and in the dunes. Of course I'm disappointed that our stint came to such an early end."
#203 – Michel Périn – co-driver
"Carlos and I worked together very well. We only really got to know each in the cockpit during the rally because we'd never tested in Africa. Carlos is very calm and professional, he asks a lot of questions. I'm convinced that we'll work together better yet in the next rally. Unfortunately, our stint ended after a roll-over on the fourth leg, but on an offroad track such an accident can easily happen. That's part of the learning curve as well."
Press Release Volkswagen Motorsport