A double success for Volkswagen

Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz won the fifth leg of the Dakar Rally from Nequén to San Rafael, ahead of their teammates Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk.

South African de Villiers has therefore improved his overall ranking in this legendary cross-country rally by one place and is now ranked second overall, 2.24 minutes behind the new rally leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah/Tina Thörner. He is now also the new leading Volkswagen driver in the field. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk were at the front of the pack for several hundred kilometres of yesterday’s leg. The route, which ranged in altitude from 400 metres to 2,300 metres above sea level, featured lots of alternating between clearly visible tracks and long sections of off-road driving, as well as an approximately 20-kilometre stretch of demanding dunes to be negotiated towards the end. The German pair eventually came second, securing their best result so far on this cross-country rallying classic.Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford also had reason to be pleased, coming in sixth on today’s turbulent 506-kilometre-long special stage and therefore supplanting Mitsubishi driver Joan "Nani” Roma to take fourth place overall. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn suffered a setback: after leading the rally for three days, they finished Wednesday’s leg in ninth place in spite of a rollover shortly before the finishing line, and were 15.42 minutes behind the day’s winners. The two-time rally world champion has therefore dropped to third place in the overall rankings and trails the front runners by 6.33 minutes.

Coming up …Thursday, 8 January: Leg 6, San Rafael (RA)–Mendoza (RA). The sixth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally is characterised by lots of possible route choices. The drivers and their co-pilots will first encounter a 60-kilometre-long stretch of dunes on their way to Mendoza. The second part of the day’s journey is then seemingly easier, but is tricky all the same – a wide ford will require all of the participants’ attention if they want to avoid taking an unexpected dip. The participants will clock up a total of 625 kilometres on this stage, 395 of which are against the clock.