VW keeps upper hand on Dakar

Volkswagen has kept the upper hand with three cars leading the event, even on the extremely demanding tenth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally.

Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn in the Race Touareg extended their advantage in the overall classification by another 7.39 minutes, to 27.31 minutes. On the loop around Copiapó in Chile, which contained a lot of camel grass and high dune fields with soft sand as well as stony and rough sections, the duo clinched its sixth stage victory with a narrow lead. After 470 kilometres through the Atacama desert merely 21 seconds separated the Volkswagen team from Robby Gordon/Andy Grider in the Hummer. For Sainz, who is just contesting his third "Dakar”, this marked as much as the 15th stage victory in the off-road classic.Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford solidified their second place overall in the rally by setting the third-best time of the day despite a puncture. They reached the finish 7.39 minutes behind Sainz. Their team colleagues Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz drove the sixth-best time with an 18.15-minute gap on the loop that was shortened by about 200 kilometres versus the original planning due to the delayed start in the morning on account of fog. 20 kilometres before the finish they had gotten stuck in deep sand in a blind area near the top of a dune. In the overall classification, the South African-German pairing remains in third place, now ranking 41.13 minutes behind the front runners. For the first time, Volkswagen’s outright advantage over their best rival has increased to over one hour: ranking fourth overall, Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz as the only remaining Mitsubishi team are trailing Carlos Sainz by as much as 1:13 hour. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk in a further Volkswagen Touareg experienced a strange accident that set them back quite a bit. Behind the top of a dune, at the bottom of the next valley, they noticed their stranded compatriot Matthias Kahle but were not able to slow down their Race Touareg while running downhill in the sand and slid into the rear of the German’s Buggy. After digging themselves out of the sand and losing time in the process, both teams were able to continue the rally.

Coming up …Wednesday, 14 January: Copiapó (RCH) – Fiambalá (RA). The originally planned eleventh leg involving the crossing of the Andes and the border from Chile to Argentina has been cancelled due to a prediction of inclement weather, and converted into a liaison stage.

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