Dakar Rally : Volkswagen Motorsport - Leg 4
Volkswagen maintains its triple lead on the fourth day of the Dakar Rally: Factory driver Carlos Sainz expanded his advantage at the top by 53 seconds to 1.55 minutes on the leg from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate in Morocco. The Spaniard
with his French co-driver Michel Périn set the third-best time on the 679-kilometre distance – the longest leg of the rally so far. Behind Jean-Louis Schlesser (France/Buggy) the Portuguese Carlos Sousa with German co-driver Andy Schulz at his side in the Race Touareg 2 of Team Lagos, prepared and fielded by Phoenix-Sport, finished as the best-placed Volkswagen duo of the day.
Behind Sainz/Périn and in front of Sousa/Schulz, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz in the blue factory Touareg remain in second place of the overall classification. The South African-German pairing, who won yesterday's special stage, achieved the fifth-best time in adverse conditions: thick vegetation of up to a metre and half in height inside a chott in the beginning forced the first team out on the course to stop three times to clear the radiator of grass. Mark Miller dropped from fifth to tenth position overall: The Volkswagen factory driver from the USA with his South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford lost 40 minutes on account of a damaged differential. Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons in the fourth Race Touareg fielded by the factory team finished the stage in eleventh place.
Kris Nissen - Volkswagen Motorsport Director :
« Volkswagen continues to occupy the top three positions. Our drivers set good times today, and Carlos Sousa's performance, as well, deserves credit. Congratulations to Jean-Louis Schlesser on winning this stage. On this fast leg through a chott and in the sand the Race Touareg was good, which is a good omen for the days ahead. But Mitsubishi, too, were consistent. Unfortunately, Mark Miller lost time today when the rear differential stopped working properly. We're going to install a new differential in the evening and analyse the reason for this damage. »
N°301 - Giniel de Villiers :
« Being the first car out we cut an aisle through the vegetation on the first 100 kilometres. Three times we had to stop to clear the radiators of the grass, which cost us five minutes. In the process we were overtaken by Carlos Sainz and Stéphane Peterhansel. When Carlos suffered a puncture we passed him. 80 kilometres before the finish we drove past Stéphane while he was standing. Looking at it this way, it's been a good day but I'm very sad because one of my fellow countrymen was killed in a motorcycle accident. »
N°303 - Carlos Sainz :
« We've maintained the lead in unfavourable conditions. In the beginning I lost time in deep ruts, and the navigation was tricky at first as well. When we had a puncture of the rear right-hand tyre we had to stop and change it. During this time we cleared the radiator of grass as well. On Wednesday I'm expecting a similarly tough day. »
N°305 - Mark Miller :
« With Luc Alphand I fought a nice duel and passed him after 230 kilometres when he suffered a puncture. Once we missed a way point and lost a few minutes. When the all-wheel drive stopped working properly we started, with Ari's help, to change a rear drive shaft. But then we discovered that it was probably the differential and re-installed the shaft. »
N°308 - Ari Vatanen :
« In the dust it was difficult to overtake, but our day was very consistent nevertheless. Then we met Mark and helped him to repair the damage. When he had to continue driving with the damaged differential we decided to stay behind him through to the finish to be on the safe side. »