Volkswagen started the second week of the Dakar Rally exactly the way the first half on Friday before the rest day had ended: by securing a triple stage win and maintaining its previous one-two-three lead. The day’s best result was clinched yet again by Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F), who scored a fourth stage victory in the Race Touareg, thus further extending their overall lead.
On the eighth leg from Valparaíso to La Serena in Chile, which put the concentration and fitness of the drivers and co-drivers to the test on gravel tracks, like those featured in sprint rallies, and on long serpentine sections, the German Volkswagen duo Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk reached the destination in second position with a 4.02-minute gap to Sainz/Périn. Another ten seconds later, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) in the third of the Race Touareg vehicles sporting Red Bull blue followed in third place.
In fifth place, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) finished the eighth special stage but lost 10.48 minutes on the 652-kilometre leg in the dust of their rivals and due to a slow puncture. In the overall classification de Villiers is now trailing his Spanish team-mate Sainz by 10.57 minutes. Miller, with an 18.05-minute gap, continues ranking in third position. Depping advanced to eighth overall, but is almost five hours behind.
Volkswagen’s best immediate rival, Mitsubishi driver Nani Roma, in fourth place overall dropped by a further 4.15 minutes to a 33.31-minute gap to Sainz.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"For Volkswagen, today’s leg marked a positive beginning of the second ‘Dakar’ week. After the so-called rest day all four Race Touareg vehicles were running perfectly as usual. Inspecting and working on numerous components on rest day always harbours the risk of something slipping. But the entire squad did a superb job – this is also reflected by our result of having four cars among the top five. Now, the really tough days are coming up. Tonight, we’ll get together to work out a good strategy for Monday. In view of today’s outcome and the resulting early starting positions, our starting base couldn’t be any better.”
#301 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
"These types of rally tracks suit me very well and I really enjoyed the day – even though I did work up a sweat with all that gravel, the many slippery stretches and countless bends. Today called for a lot of work with the steering wheel. A perfectly prepared car that gave me a lot of confidence made the whole thing quite a bit easier.”
#305 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 5th place leg / 2nd place overall
"Today had positive as well as less positive aspects. Of course at this stage of the rally each arrival at the finish is important and the good news is that we had no technical problems whatsoever, the car is running the way it should be in every respect. Unfortunately, I lost a bit of time to Carlos today because soon after the special stage started I caught Guerlain Chicherit in the BMW and Robby Gordon in the Hummer. For some 100 kilometres, I wasn’t able to pass them – the track was too narrow and, unfortunately, the activation of the Sentinel produced no response by the preceding contenders. In addition, we had a slow puncture, just before the end of the special. But there’s no doubt in my mind that our stages are still coming up.”
#307 – Dieter Depping (D), 2nd place leg / 8th place overall
"It’s been a long time since I turned the steering wheel as much as I did today. The track today tended to be more typical of a sprint rally – with lots of gravel and plenty of bends. That really suits me well but after 200 kilometres I had to muster all my concentration to keep from making mistakes. On the physical side, today was extremely trying, so I was very happy about having air conditioning on board.”
#308 – Mark Miller (USA), 3rd place leg / 3rd place overall
"That was a real tap dancing act today. Feet, arms – we constantly had to move on these gravel stretches. In addition, the sections were extremely narrow and the terrain kept changing. So, today the adaptability of the driver was essential. But Ralph was put to the test in navigation as well with a few tricky places. Today our hard work in the gym prior to the rally definitely paid off.”

From the Volkswagen bivouac

- Brief visit to the Volkswagen bivouac: Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet: The Volkswagen team received a high-ranking visitor on the Dakar Rally’s rest day: Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet paid a visit to the service camp of the motorsport cross-country marathon and took a look at the Volkswagen bivouac as well. The President, who has been in office since March 2006 and spent some time studying in Germany, received first-hand information from Carlos Sainz and Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. The government of Chile actively supports the Dakar Rally in the area of organisation and personnel while the National Sports Institute has assumed responsibility for coordinating all services.
- Dakar Rally supports a social cause – cheque presented to a charity: On the rest day rally director Etienne Lavigne in the presence of Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz, former Grand Prix racer Eliseo Salazar and other "Dakar” participants presented a cheque in the amount of over 112,000 dollars to Maria Jesus Jaqueih, the regional director of the charity "Un techo para mi pais” ("A roof for my country”). The humanitarian aid organisation that builds housing for the socially deprived will use the rally organiser’s donation to erect 40 pinewood houses in Chile and 40 in Argentina, each having 18 square metres of floor space.
- A star in high demand – Carlos Sainz shows patience: He is leading the rally and, as a two-time world champion, has been a star for a long time. In addition, as a Spanish-speaking driver, South America is a "second home” to him, particularly after having won the World Rally Championship three times in Argentina. Carlos Sainz was the subject of media interest galore, particularly on a day that was actually intended to be a rest day. But the Volkswagen driver patiently answered all questions posed by media representatives about the exciting events during South America’s first Dakar Rally for no less than seven hours.
- Logistics on target – four cars, seven days, 170 tyres: At the Dakar Rally the Volkswagen team is on target in terms of logistics as well. On the first eight legs the four duos in the Race Touareg vehicles, Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford and Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk, have used 170 wheels – in other words tyres pre-mounted on rims. On the over 9,500-kilometre distance through Argentina and Chile the team carries a supply of 380 wheels.

- Volkswagen drivers within 13 minutes and 26.2 kilometres halfway through the rally: The three front-running duos in the Race Touareg vehicles had completed almost 24 hours of driving time by the time the rally reached its midpoint on rest day – separated from each other by merely 13 minutes in terms of overall time. The balance achieved between the first-placed Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, runners-up Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz and the third-place d Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford in selecting the routes was reflected by the data of the engineers. For Sainz/Périn, the sensors logged 2,555.58 kilometres of special stages, for de Villiers/von Zitzewitz 2,577.13, and for Miller Pitchford 2,581.78. For comparison: The organiser states a total length of 2,466 kilometres for the first week of the rally – the tolerance in the data obtained by the Volkswagen engineers also includes so-called slip, which occurs when the wheels spin on soft ground, as well as an extra kilometre here and there caused by minor navigation errors.
Standings after leg 08, Valparaíso (RCH) – La Serena (RCH); 294/652 km stage 8/total
Pos.;    Team;    Vehicle;    Leg 8;    Overall time
1.    Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    3h47m19s (1st);    27h29m59s
2.    Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    3h58m07s (5th)    + 10m57s
3.    Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    3h51m31s (3rd)    + 18m05s
4.    Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E);    Mitsubishi Racing Lancer;    3h51m34s (4th)    + 33m31s
5.    Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA);    Hummer;    4h10m59s (8th)    + 1h32m01s
6.    Krzysztof Holowczyc/Jean-Marc Fortin (PL/B);    Nissan Navara;    4h04m52s (7th)    + 2h57m05s
7.    Ivar Tollefsen/Quin Evans (N/GB);    Nissan Navara;    4h13m30s (9th)    + 3h25m32s
8.    Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    3h51m21s (2nd)    + 4h51m45s
9.    René Kuipers/Filipe Palmeiro (NL/P);    BMW X3;    4h21m11s (12th)    + 5h33m43s
10.    Orlando Terranova/Alain Guehennec (RA/F);    BMW X3;    5h37m07s (77th)    + 5h54m41s

Coming up …
Monday, 12 January: La Serena (RCH) – Copiapó (RCH). The 537-kilometre ninth leg forms the first part of a trilogy of acid tests: The contenders will have their first encounter with the Atacama desert, which is known as the world’s most arid region. Rocky passages and prolonged dune stretches at the end of the 449-kilometre special stage are part of the constantly changing terrain as well.


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