Volkswagen started the second week of the Dakar Rally exactly the way the first half on Friday before the rest day had ended: by securing a triple stage win and maintaining its previous one-two-three lead.
The day’s best result was clinched yet again by Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, who scored a fourth stage victory in the Race Touareg, thus further extending their overall lead.On the eighth leg from Valparaíso to La Serena in Chile, which put the concentration and fitness of the drivers and co-drivers to the test on gravel tracks, like those featured in sprint rallies, and on long serpentine sections, the German Volkswagen duo Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk reached the destination in second position with a 4.02-minute gap to Sainz/Périn. Another ten seconds later, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford in the third of the Race Touareg vehicles sporting Red Bull blue followed in third place.In fifth place, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz finished the eighth special stage but lost 10.48 minutes on the 652-kilometre leg in the dust of their rivals and due to a slow puncture. In the overall classification de Villiers is now trailing his Spanish team-mate Sainz by 10.57 minutes. Miller, with an 18.05-minute gap, continues ranking in third position. Depping advanced to eighth overall, but is almost five hours behind.Volkswagen’s best immediate rival, Mitsubishi driver Nani Roma, in fourth place overall dropped by a further 4.15 minutes to a 33.31-minute gap to Sainz.
Coming up …Monday, 12 January: La Serena (RCH) – Copiapó (RCH). The 537-kilometre ninth leg forms the first part of a trilogy of acid tests: The contenders will have their first encounter with the Atacama desert, which is known as the world’s most arid region. Rocky passages and prolonged dune stretches at the end of the 449-kilometre special stage are part of the constantly changing terrain as well.