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Volkswagen has continued its preparations for the 2008 Dakar Rally with ten-day tests in Tunisia. During the tests the factory team gathered valuable experience for the classic event in the discipline of cross-country rallies that will kick off in Lisbon on January 5, 2008.

“We had ten outstanding days of testing. At temperatures between 35 and 42 degrees, weather conditions were ideal. It was exactly what we were looking for. In extremely difficult track conditions we made another step in the right direction both in terms of reliability and performance,” Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen said with satisfaction.

In Ksar Ghilane in South Tunisia two Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 vehicles were used for testing. With the first car, the main focus was on reliability that was tested in long runs.

The Race Touareg powered by a 285-hp five-cylinder TDI diesel engine was driven by the four driver/co-driver pairings Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford, Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz and Carlos Sousa/Andy Schulz as well as by the test crew Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk.

"Everything went well, without any problems whatsoever. We didn’t encounter anything that was unexpected and were therefore able to complete more than one ’Dakar’ distance,” Nissen explained.

With the second Race Touareg, driven by Carlos Sainz and Giniel de Villiers, the main focus was on the evolution of the chassis and suspension.

"Particularly in terms of the dampers, wheels and differentials we achieved notable progress," he added. "Owing to the positive results, we were able to use the new components at the end of the tests during the long runs as well."

The tracks in Tunisia resembled the difficult conditions during the Dakar Rally. Long sectors of camel grass, treacherous sand dunes and tracks with a hard, dry surface primarily corresponded to the demanding special stages in Mauritania.

"I am happy that everything worked so well and that the entire squad did an outstanding job too. That is particularly rewarding as, parallel to these tests, we mastered a strenuous programme of mammoth proportions with the victory clinched by Carlos Sainz and Michel Périn in the World Cup season opener, the Rally Transibérico in Portugal, the widely noted exploit in the North American Baja 500, as well as by eighth place overall and class victory in the 24-Hour Race at the Nürburgring,” Nissen said with respect to the positive results achieved across the board in the past fortnight.

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