Volkswagen maintained a one-two lead on what proved to be the Dakar Rally’s most turbulent day so far.
On the twelfth of 14 legs Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz in the Race Touareg took the lead in front of their team-mates Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn, who had been leading the rally ever since the seventh leg, retired after an accident. Dieter Depping/Timo Gottschalk reached the stage finish in La Rioja in fourth place and thus improved to sixth position in the overall standings.The 223-kilometre special stage from Fiambala to La Rioja saw not just one but two changes in the lead in the desert classic. Sainz/Périn had an accident after 79 kilometres and the duo was fored to retire due to Michel Périn having suffered a broken shoulder blade. On the special stage and in the virtual interim classification Miller/Pitchford were running in front over long distances and maintained their lead almost up to the final dune belt of the stage. But then de Villiers/von Zitzewitz converted the 2m18s gap into a stage lead of 16m17s, thanks to good navigating. They thus took over first place overall as well and, before the last two legs, are running 2m35s in front of Miller/Pitchford, who are also driving a Race Touareg powered by 280 hp.After the Spaniards Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz in the field of those chasing the front runners, as the only remaining Mitsubishi duo, encountered technical problems, Robby Gordon/Andy Grider in the Hummer are now in third place overall. However, they are lacking as much as 1h18m to the leading Volkswagen.
Coming up …Friday, 16 January: La Rioja (RA) – Córdoba (RA). The penultimate leg of the "Dakar” offers the participants cactuses galore on the way from La Rioja to Córdoba. On the 545-kilometre special stage the teams have to avoid contact with the plants, some of which are of mammoth dimensions, in order to avoid damaging the vehicles shortly before the rally’s finish. A section of the World Rally Championship’s special stage around Córdoba that was featured in the Rally of Argentina will also be part of this leg.