VW continues triple Dakar lead

 Volkswagen celebrated its seventh stage victory on the ninth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally, maintaining its overall lead with stage winners Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, ahead of two further Race Touareg vehicles.

The 537-kilometre leg from La Serena to Copiapó in Chile demanded concentrated performance of the navigators, particularly during the starting phase, and put a severe physical strain on the crews due to long off-road stretches with hard impacts and stony sections. At first, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford looked like the stage winners for a long time. However, the American/South African duo lost about five minutes just before the finish because of a tyre change, but improved by one position in the overall classification. Miller/Pitchford took second place from their team colleagues Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, who lost 12.01 minutes on the ninth competition day due to a navigation error.Carlos Sainz, who had been leading the cross-country classic for three days from the second leg onwards, then being replaced at the top for two days, has been running in front in the overall classification again since last Friday. After five stage victories, his lead over Miller now amounts to almost 20 minutes. De Villiers/von Zitzewitz follow with a three-minute gap in third place. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk in the fourth 280-hp Race Touareg lost 1:48 hours and dropped from eighth to tenth place overall.

Coming up …Tuesday, 13 January: Copiapó (RCH) – Copiapó (RCH). The special stage of the tenth leg is the longest one of the 2009 Dakar Rally. In view of long dune stretches across several hundred kilometres in the Atacama desert, it is also considered the toughest one. Extreme heat is another technical challenge making the 670 timed kilometres (690 total) around Copiapó a real acid test.