Following a turbulent sixth leg yesterday, Volkswagen now leads the Dakar Rally with three of its Race Touareg cars.
In the overall rankings, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz are 7.39 minutes ahead of Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn and 17.51 minutes ahead of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford. Volkswagen has already led this year’s Dakar Rally, from the second to the fourth leg.All three Volkswagen drivers have now moved up one place overall after a day which kicked off with an extremely tough and selective 60-kilometre stretch of dunes and concluded with some easier dirt tracks. This is because the leading team of Nasser Al-Attiyah/Tina Thörner in a BMW X3 incurred some technical problems on the way from San Rafael to Mendoza in Argentina and took a short cut, missing several of the waypoints and consequently being excluded. This allowed Volkswagen to achieve a threefold leg victory, with Giniel de Villiers coming in ahead of Mark Miller and Carlos Sainz – yet another superb driving and navigating performance.The German Volkswagen duo Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk, who came second yesterday, were less lucky. After incurring a technical fault, they were forced to stop and were towed to the bivouac by a Volkswagen race truck. Depping/Gottschalk are now ranked eleventh overall.This turn of events means that Volkswagen now has a comfortable lead in the first half of the rally, with the three teams’ closest challengers, Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz in a Mitsubishi, trailing behind the front-runners by 31.18 minutes.
Coming up …Friday, 9 January: Leg 7, Mendoza (RA)–Valparaíso (RCH). The participants can expect some typical "Dakar” diversity on Friday. Sections of driving over scree followed by powdery sand much like the notorious "fesh-fesh” of the Sahara (and known as "guadal” here) are the order of the day. The teams should also be prepared for a long day of racing and after covering 816 kilometres, 419 of which will be against the clock, the first vehicles probably won’t make it to the bivouac until 8 p.m. local time. Half way through the rally, Saturday will then be a rest day.