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Volkswagen has kept the upper hand with three cars leading the event, even on the extremely demanding tenth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally: Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F) in the Race Touareg extended their advantage in the overall classification by another 7.39 minutes, to 27.31 minutes.

On the loop around Copiapó in Chile, which contained a lot of camel grass and high dune fields with soft sand as well as stony and rough sections, the duo clinched its sixth stage victory with a narrow lead. After 470 kilometres through the Atacama desert merely 21 seconds separated the Volkswagen team from Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA) in the Hummer. For Sainz, who is just contesting his third "Dakar”, this marked as much as the 15th stage victory in the off-road classic.
Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) solidified their second place overall in the rally by setting the third-best time of the day despite a puncture. They reached the finish 7.39 minutes behind Sainz. Their team colleagues Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) drove the sixth-best time with an 18.15-minute gap on the loop that was shortened by about 200 kilometres versus the original planning due to the delayed start in the morning on account of fog. 20 kilometres before the finish they had gotten stuck in deep sand in a blind area near the top of a dune. In the overall classification, the South African-German pairing remains in third place, now ranking 41.13 minutes behind the front runners.
For the first time, Volkswagen’s outright advantage over their best rival has increased to over one hour: ranking fourth overall, Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz (E/E) as the only remaining Mitsubishi team are trailing Carlos Sainz by as much as 1:13 hour. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk in a further Volkswagen Touareg experienced a strange accident that set them back quite a bit. Behind the top of a dune, at the bottom of the next valley, they noticed their stranded compatriot Matthias Kahle but were not able to slow down their Race Touareg while running downhill in the sand and slid into the rear of the German’s Buggy. After digging themselves out of the sand and losing time in the process, both teams were able to continue the rally.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"The tenth day of the Dakar Rally has been the toughest one so far and we’re satisfied to have had all four Race Touareg vehicles reach the finish. Carlos Sainz and Michel Périn really did a good job today. They perfectly mastered the difficult dune section at the end and did a good job of navigating. Today, we took another step towards achieving our goal of winning the ‘Dakar’. Still, despite the fact that we’ve defended our one-two-three lead nobody should be deluded into thinking that we’re on the safe side now. The next days will again be extremely rough – and at the risk of repeating myself: it’s true that we’ve achieved a lot but we haven’t won anything yet.”

#301 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
"Lots of off-roading, high camel grass, soft sand, stones galore – this special stage really pushed us to the limits. Particularly on the last section, the organiser had some tough tasks in store for us. So, today I’m really bushed. Of course it’s great to have won another stage and to have increased our overall lead that way. But today, reaching the finish without any major problems was really the main thing.”
#305 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 6th place leg / 3rd place overall
"You could write a whole book just about this leg. The route was exceptionally demanding and despite a puncture the special stage went extremely well for us – until we drove into a hole at the top of a dune about 20 kilometres before the finish and ended up with all four wheels in the air. We had to dig to get out of there again. That Mark Miller wasn’t able to pull us out wasn’t his fault – that place was simply too soft. He did the right thing by moving on. But, unfortunately, this cost us 20 minutes. But we’re continuing to rank third overall. That’s good for us and, particularly, for Volkswagen.”
#307 – Dieter Depping (D), 18th place leg / 9th place overall
"When we were crossing the crest of that dune, nobody warned us. After we’d crossed it we were only able to see the car of Matthias Kahle, who was stuck at the bottom of the dune, when it was too late. I wasn’t able to do anything any more and slowly slid into his car. From the top of this really steep dune we simply couldn’t see the car. That was very unfortunate – and it’s also a strange coincidence that two German teams would meet this way in this vast desert.”
#308 – Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place leg / 2nd place overall
"That was by far the most difficult special stage of the Dakar Rally up to now. Right at the beginning we got lost several times. While we were still looking for the right way one of our tyres went flat. I’m not criticising my co-driver Ralph Pitchford – as always, he did a good job. It’s just that today was incredibly difficult because the roadbook wasn’t very precise. At the end, we unfortunately had to leave Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, who had gotten stuck, behind because otherwise we’d have gotten stuck ourselves. I apologise for that but there was simply no chance to pull them out of this soft sand.”
Three questions for Andreas Lautner, Technical Director
Even before the "Dakar”, today’s special stage around Copiapó was considered the pinnacle of all the legs. What made it so special from a technical point of view?
"Today’s leg led through huge dune fields with special characteristics. For one, the dune crests here are very sharp-edged and unpredictable, and for the other, the sand in the Atacama desert is particularly soft. I think that our choice of tyre – the BFGoodrich All Terrain – was a good one for this. In addition, power, in other words torque, is a crucial factor – and our TDI engine has plenty of that.”
Looking back at the first ten legs, what special aspects of the "Dakar” premiere in South America have been particularly attractive in terms of technology?
"Particularly in Argentina, but in Chile as well, the terrain kept changing several times every day on the various legs. This meant we had to find a good compromise for the set-up of the vehicles. But we prepared for this very well during our tests in Morocco where we had a good prerequisites for simulating the conditions here in South America – soft sand and dune passages or hard gravel stretches.”
The Race Touareg has proved to be a reliable as well as fast vehicle at this "Dakar”. What was the top technological priority of the development project?
"The best idea was to reduce the evolution of the Race Touareg to detailed work and to increase our focus on the newly established quality assurance, and to feed the findings from that area into the preparation of the vehicles. We only use components that have been tested a hundred per cent in the ‘Dakar’. This has given us the – hopefully – cr ucial advantage in this extremely tough test of material.”
Standings after leg 10, Copiapó (RCH) – Copiapó (RCH); 470/490 km stage 10/total
Pos.;    Team;    Vehicle;    Leg 10;    Overall time
1.    Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    5h32m55s (1st);    38h59m02s
2.    Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    5h40m34s (3rd)    + 27m31s
3.    Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    5h51m10s (6th)    + 41m13s
4.    Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E);    Mitsubishi Racing Lancer;    5h47m56s (5th)    + 1h13m13s
5.    Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA);    Hummer;    5h33m16s (2nd)    + 1h34m38s
6.    Ivar Tollefsen/Quin Evans (N/GB);    Nissan Navara;    6h41m54s (8th)    + 5h14m18s
7.    Krzysztof Holowczyc/Jean-Marc Fortin (PL/B);    Nissan Navara;    8h00m58s (25th)    + 5h51m56s
8.    René Kuipers/Filipe Palmeiro (NL/P);    BMW X3;    6h57m23s (13th)    + 8h01m51s
9.    Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    7h25m30s (18th)    + 8h32m34s
10.    Laszlo Palik/Gabor Darazsi (H/H);    Nissan Navara;    7h19m26s (17th)    + 9h50m29s

Coming up …
Wednesday, 14 January: Copiapó (RCH) – Fiambalá (RA). The originally planned eleventh leg involving the crossing of the Andes and the border from Chile to Argentina has been cancelled due to a prediction of inclement weather, and converted into a liaison stage.

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