Dakar Rally : Volkswagen Motorsport - Leg 9
After making an impressive start to the 29 th Dakar Rally the Volkswagen team was dealt a cruel blow today: The factory duo Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany) started the ninth stage as leaders but, like
their team mates Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France) in fourth place, were also stopped by a technical defect on the Race Touareg 2 during the ninth stage from Tichit to Nema in Mauritania.
A cam follower in the engine's valve train broke on Giniel de Villiers' car. A hole was punched in the valve cover as a result, and the escaping oil ignited on the hot turbocharger. The flames were doused immediately with the onboard fire extinguisher. The car is being towed back to the bivouac by one of the Race-Trucks. Carlos Sainz, who had led the rally comfortably, was slowed when his engine cut-out suddenly and refused to restart probably due to an electrical problem. He is also being towed to the bivouac.
Volkswagen had led the Dakar Rally convincingly from the start on 6 January in Lisbon until today, 15 January. The de Villiers/von Zitzewitz tandem held a 31 minute lead entering the ninth stage. Sainz/Périn only lost second overall on the eighth stage after a hydraulic steering hose chaffed through, and which left Sainz without steering assistance. Volkswagen was able to win six of the nine stages run to date.
Carlos Sousa/Andy Schulz (Portugal/Germany) in the Lagos Team Race Touareg and the factory pairing of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) ended the ninth stage in seventh and ninth positions respectively, each about half-an-hour behind the winner after sacrificing valuable time to help Sainz. In the overall classification, which is now led by Stéphane Peterhansel (France/Mitsubishi), Miller/Pitchford and Sousa/Schulz hold sixth and seventh positions.
Kris Nissen - Volkswagen Motorsport Director :
“We were on the receiving end of a couple of hard blows today. However, it doesn't change the fact that I am extremely proud of the team. Everybody made a huge contribution to enable Volkswagen to lead the rally from the opening day and to get the better of Mitsubishi in direct competition – until yesterday. It's difficult for us to accept that we are no longer leading and that it is almost impossible to win now. You can win innumerable stages during this rally and must nevertheless only lose one to be the loser at the finish. This is the difference between the Dakar Rally and other competitions such as a football season, in which a single loss does not cost the championship. Our objectives now are to enable Giniel and Carlos to continue, to score as many good stage results as possible and to claim a tidy result at finish.”
N°301 - Giniel de Villiers :
“We were leading the rally when a roller tappet in the valve train broke. It punched a hole in the cylinder head cover and the escaping oil momentarily caught fire. We were able to put the flash fire out with the onboard fire extinguisher. The damage couldn't be repaired on the stage, which is why we had to be towed-in by the Race Truck.”
N°303 - Carlos Sainz :
“The engine died and never restarted after we'd made a hard landing in a pothole. Mark Miller stopped to help, as did Carlos Sousa. The engine refused to fire up again even after we'd replaced the electronic components and tried to bump start it. So, the Race-Truck hitched us up.”
N°305 - Mark Miller :
“We ran at an excellent pace, we overtook a Mitsubishi and a BMW and were lying third at the first time check point. When we came across Giniel, we stopped for about 30 seconds but he told us to continue. Later we followed Luc Alphand, but drove defensively – so, he had nothing to worry about. Then we made an inspired move: Carlos Sainz was shadowing us very closely. We let him past, what Alphand didn't notice, and so he let Carlos past by mistake because he thought that it was my car. Unfortunately, Carlos ground to a halt. We pulled up alongside him and worked for around 35 minutes trying to repair the car, we changed the ECU – all to no avail.”