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Volkswagen consolidated its one-two lead with Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) on the 13th and penultimate leg of the Dakar Rally. On the leg from La Rioja to Córdoba, which had been shortened from 753 to 631 kilometres, the advantage of the two Race Touareg vehicles running in front at the extremely tough desert rally increased yet again, despite a deliberately restrained driving style because their closest rivals, Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA), lost 22m49s to the stage winners.
 
Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz (E/E) rejoiced with Mitsubishi about their first stage victory, while Volkswagen in a favourite overall position had opted for a defensive, no-risk driving style driven by team spirit. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) in the Red Bull blue Race Touareg finished the stage, which – as at the beginning of the rally – featured quick gravel sections similar to a sprint rally, in fourth place. Miller/Pitchford finished the day in seventh, and de Villiers/von Zitzewitz in eighth place.
 
36-year-old Giniel de Villiers is thus ranking in first place overall, 2m20s ahead of Mark Miller. Robby Gordon in third overall is lacking as much as 1h27m to the front runners. With Dieter Depping in seventh place, the third remaining Race Touareg before the final 792-kilometre leg to Buenos Aires is among the top ten of the legendary desert classic that is being staged in South America through Argentina and Chile for the first time and that will end on Sunday with the drive across the official finish ramp.
 
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"On the last two ‘Dakar’ legs, taking the three Race Touareg cars to the finish is of paramount importance. Our goal is not to clinch a stage win but the historic maiden victory of a diesel-powered vehicle at the legendary Dakar Rally. This is within reach now – for the final leg, this means: we will take the cars all the way to the finish. I have nothing but praise for the drivers and co-drivers’ excellent teamwork today. They perfectly followed our strategy and thus made another contribution towards achieving this big objective.”
 
#305 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 8th place leg / 1st place overall
"We approached the penultimate leg of the Dakar Rally very cautiously. The key thing was to deliver the car in good condition at the finish. That wasn’t easy because today’s stage in particular offered several opportunities to damage the car. Loose gravel demanded my full concentration because it was very slippery. On Saturday, we’ll have to complete the final stage with one hundred per cent concentration as well.”
 
#307 – Dieter Depping (D), 4th place leg / 7th place overall
"A very nice, very fast special stage which – yet again – very much resembled a classic sprint rally. That suited me extremely well and it was fun driving it. Today I had the part of accompanying the other two teams to the finish in the event this would have been necessary. I’ve got no problems with that whatsoever: The main thing is that at the end of this tough Dakar Rally a Volkswagen finishes as the winner. I’d do anything for that.”
 
#308 – Mark Miller (USA), 7th place leg / 2nd place overall
"The stage again offered lots of variety and, to be honest, we drove with reduced speed today. At this point of the rally, it’s all about taking it easy on the material, to keep from damaging anything and to see the finish every day. What’s more, we delivered good teamwork today. One thing is clear: We started the rally as a team and we’ll finish it as a team.”
 

Three questions for Volkswagen team physician Dr Markus Preuth
 
At the "Dakar” the drivers and co-drivers have to deliver top athletic performances in the cockpit. Howe did the Volkswagen factory drivers prepare themselves for this?
"In addition to special medical care, which is assured throughout the year, we conducted an altitude training programme with all the teams focused on both power and concentration. In Arosa, for example, we prepared for the ‘Dakar’ with climbing, mountain biking and hiking tours. I think this paid off in the teams’ performances, particularly on the tough legs.”
 
As a team doctor, how can you tell how fit the teams are during the "Dakar”?
"When the boys come in after completing the legs, sometimes after eight hours of working at the limit, they not only look fit. Based on a fluid balance we can tell whether or not the drivers and co-drivers drank enough and help to re-hydrate them. Despite truly strenuous stages – where the drivers even had to dig themselves out of the sand at times – we have not encountered any health problems whatsoever so far. Quite the opposite is true: the drivers have always handled the strains very well.”
 
On the medical side of the house, how do you manage to have the drivers and co-drivers recoup their energies within just a few hours – and for two weeks straight at that?
"Of course after returning from a stage the drivers and co-drivers need to get as much sleep as possible. But you can also do a lot in terms of nutrition and treatment. For example, after arriving at the bivouac the crews are immediately served pasta by our chef – to ‘refuel’ on carbohydrates. In addition, there are special re-hydration drinks. Afterwards, they receive physiotherapy during which the muscles are loosened and special treatment is applied individually at various locations. In addition to the muscles, this usually involves the tendons. We also use a joints and soft tissue technique to ensure the boys are fit again the next day.”

Standings after leg 13, La Rioja (RA) – Córdoba (RA); 220/631 km stage 13/total
 
Pos.;    Team;    Vehicle;    Leg 13;    Overall time
1.    Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    2h48m16s (8th);    46h35m14s
2.    Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    2h48m01s (7th)    + 2m20s
3.    Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA);    Hummer;    2h56m37s (16th)    + 1h27m13s
4.    Ivar Tollefsen/Quin Evans (N/GB);    Nissan Navara;    2h54m56s (12th)    + 5h55m01s
5.    Krzysztof Holowczyc/Jean-Marc Fortin (PL/B);    Nissan Navara;    2h41m06s (2nd)    + 6h37m32s
6.    Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz Senra (E/E);    Mitsubishi Racing Lancer;    2h33m48s (1st)    + 7h27m08s
7.    Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D);    Volkswagen Race Touareg 2;    2h43m48s (4th)    + 8h28m55s
8.    Miroslav Zapletal/Tomas Ourednicek (CZ/ CZ);    Mitsubishi L200;    2h51m06s (9th)    + 10h52m26s
9.    Leonid Novitskiy/Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS/RUS);    BMW X3;    2h44m21s (5th)    + 13h15m11s
10.    René Kuipers/Filipe Palmeiro (NL/P);    BMW X3;    2h56m17s (14th)    + 14h40m17s
 
Coming up …
 
Friday, 17 January: Córdoba (RA) – Buenos Aires (RA). The "Dakar” debut in South America will end where it started: in the legendary pampas. After two weeks on all kinds of different terrain the participants will return to familiar ground on the last 792-kilometre leg before the rally’s finish. Again, there will be long and quick straight sections on the agenda – similar to those at the beginning of the rally.
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