Dakar Rally : Volkswagen Motorsport - Leg 1
Volkswagen occupies the first five positions on the leader board after the Dakar Rally's opening stage. The opening day's stage in Portugal was won by local matador Carlos Sousa with his German co-driver Andreas Schulz in a Volkswagen
Race Touareg 2 entered by Lagos Team. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz finished second for Volkswagen in a Race Touareg 2 on the 464 kilometre long stage from Lisbon to Portimao.
The hoards of spectators lining the sandy stage witnessed an exciting tussle for third place: Carlos Sainz with co-driver Michel Pιrin and Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons recorded identical times at the stage finish. Fifth place went to Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford in another Volkswagen Race Touareg 2. Only 3:56 minutes separate the first five drivers, the closest rival Guerlain Chicherit in a BMW X3 trails by another minute.
The successful opening day continues a trend for Volkswagen: Now, for the third year in succession a Race Touareg driver tops the leader board to start the world's toughest desert rally on the way to Dakar. Carlos Sainz led the field last year at the beginning, and a year before Robby Gordon did just that. The Volkswagen Touareg has now recorded its 42nd stage victory and 37th day leading the field since its rally career started in 2004.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"I'm delighted with the excellent team result our package looks good. Just like in 2005 and 2006, we are at the front to begin, but nobody should forget that the rally is almost 8,000 kilometres long. It's also important that everybody continues to work perfectly each and every day. It wasn't easy today, because the route information for the opening stage wasn't correct. The fuel consumption climbed dramatically because the tracks were much softer than expected. It was touch-and-go up to the first service point, which is why the fuel reserve in the tanks on the cars was used up.
#301 Giniel de Villiers : 2nd position overall
"This stage was surprisingly difficult. The track was very sandy and much ruttier than you'd expect in Europe. We overtook Luc Alphand relatively early. The track was lined by trees and there were loads of spectators along the route, so we didn't take any risks and are satisfied with second place.
#303 Carlos Sainz : 3rd position overall
"For me, the subsoil felt much softer today than the sandy tracks did last time in Dubai! The track was narrow which is why it was a problem to overtake the motorcyclists. You had to sit tight and wait for a good opportunity to pass. My time is okay. I expect an entirely different, much harder surface on the second stage in the mountains.
#305 Mark Miller : 5th position overall
"That was a fantastic stage. The spectators lined the track in a guard of honour' for 40 kilometres. I didn't take any risks on this incredible day and drove very precisely. I expect tracks with very little grip on the second stage through the mountains. I also won't take any risks there. I'll be perfectly satisfied to start the first stage in Africa in the top ten.
#308 Ari Vatanen : 4th position overall
"I'm very satisfied to have recorded exactly the same time as Carlos Sainz. It was an excellent opening for my co-driver Fabrizia and I. As expected the Race Touareg ran like clockwork. However, because the track was much softer than expected we actually used the fuel reserve we'd been carrying.