Volkswagen will start the second week of the Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile in the top three positions on the leader board.
After nearly 24 hours of effective driving time, there are just nine seconds between the current leaders Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F) and their Volkswagen team colleagues Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D). The third team driving a Race Touareg with a 280 hp TDI diesel engine, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA), is then just over 13 minutes behind. After the only rest day on this legendary cross-country rally, the fourth Volkswagen pair Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk (D/D) will start the first of the next seven legs in ninth place. The ‘Dakar’ finishes where it started, in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires next Saturday (17 January). Volkswagen can look back on a successful first half of the "Dakar”, with five out of a possible seven leg victories under its belt and having had a Race Touareg in the overall lead on five days.On its South American premiere in Argentina and Chile, the Dakar Rally is cementing its reputation as the toughest rally in the world of motorsport. On their way from Buenos Aires via Santa Rosa, Puerto Madryn, Jacobacci, Neuquén, San Rafael and Mendoza (all in Argentina) to the Chilean coastal resort of Valparaíso, the 500 participants have had to negotiate everything from fast stretches of gravel tracks to scrubland, rocky and trial-like terrain, high-speed sections on sand and huge dune landscapes. Throughout, the navigating co-pilots faced plenty of switches between surfaced, marked roads and off-road stretches – something which required a great deal of skill on the part of the drivers and co-pilots again and again each day. The "Dakar” has also experienced an unprecedented following so far, with many enthusiastic fans lining the route each day.The only rest day on this year’s rally will give the 80-strong Volkswagen team an opportunity to catch their breath, but there will be little time for resting. The engineers and mechanics will spend the day thoroughly inspecting the four Race Touareg vehicles, that sport a striking blue Red Bull design, while the drivers and co-pilots will be busy talking to all the journalists and guests. And soon after midday, the co-drivers will be able to start to plan the eighth leg, when they are given the next roadbook.The Volkswagen team will face some tough challenges in the second week of the Dakar Rally. The first few stages head north along Chile’s Pacific coast, from Valparaíso to La Serena and Copiápo. The core of the 30th "Dakar” will then be a circuit around Copiapó and through the extremely dry Atacama Desert followed by the cross-country journey to La Rioja via Fiambalá. After crossing the Andes back into Argentina, the participants themselves will have to service their vehicles in Fiambalá, without any assistance. From La Rioja, the route will take the drivers back to the city of Cordoba and then on to Buenos Aires, where, after approximately 9,500 kilometres and 14 tough stages, the rally finishing line awaits.