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.”
#301 – Giniel de Villiers (RSA), 5th place (leg) / 2nd place overall
"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.”
#303 – Carlos Sainz (E), 3rd place (leg) / 1st place overall
"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.”
#305 – Mark Miller (USA), 12th place (leg) / 10th place overall
"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.”
#308 – Ari Vatanen (FIN), 11th day (leg)
"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.”

Snippets from the Volkswagen bivouac

- Cold nights: The first night in the tent in the bivouac at Er Rachidia put the Volkswagen squad to a tough test. Although in sunny weather daytime temperatures rose to 14 degrees, the thermometer dropped to 3 below zero at night. Despite special winter sleeping bags and splat mats the tents got very chilly. From Tan Tan the next day, the rally participants can expect more friendly conditions.
- Straight from the desert: Daily interviews and background info – during the Dakar Rally Eurosport and ARD’s morning news programme "Morgenmagazin”, air direct reports from the Dakar Rally’s bivouac, including, among others, interviews with members of the Volkswagen factory.

Three questions to Donatus Wichelhaus, Head of Engine Development
On the fifth leg of the Dakar Rally the route leads across the Atlas mountains in Morocco. How was the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 team prepared for extreme altitudes?
"In 2006 we performed a two-day high-altitude test with a test vehicle on the Großglockner to assure the operational liability of the engine in thin air conditions.”
How do you conduct such a test?
"We ran the test at an altitude between 1000 and 2700 metres on a blocked road and worked out the altitude adaptation for the engine under full load.”
How does the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 detect the altitude at which it operates?
"An ambient pressure sensor fitted to the engine control unit is used to detect the distance to sea level. This technology has been in use for a long time in production road cars but in racing has only been used with rallies so far.”

Standings after stage 4, Er Rachidia (MA) – Ouarzazate (MA); 405/679 km stage 4/overall
Pos.; Team; Vehicle; Stage 4; Total time
1. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h07m52s (3rd); 9h17m11s
2. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h08m45s (5th) + 1m55s
3. Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h07m46s (2nd) + 4m20s
4. Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h07m59s (4th) + 11m44s
5. Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (J/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h09m24s (6th) + 12m49s
6. Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h12m03s (7th) + 16m10s
7. Jean-Louis Schlesser/Arnaud Debron (F/F); Schlesser Buggy; 3h59m54s (1tst) + 18m20s
8. Guerlain Chicherit/Matthieu Baumel (F/F); BMW X3; 4h13m21s (8th) + 18m28s
9. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h25m50s (10th) + 24m01s
10. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h40m34s (12th) + 41m54s
Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons (FIN/I); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h29m57s (11th) + 6h50m05s
Coming up…
Wednesday, 10 January: 5th leg, Ouarzazate (MR) – Tan Tan (MR): 325 km stage/768 km total. The third Moroccan leg of the Dakar Rally includes some tight and twisty as well as some fast stretches through the Atlas mountains. This is followed by a 279-kilometre connecting leg to the bivouac in Tan Tan.

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