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Volkswagen driver de Villiers ahead of Sainz
Volkswagen maintains its one-two lead but a change at the top of the leader board before the rest day makes the 29th Dakar Rally even more thrilling: Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz took the lead, having clinched their second stage victory on the way from Zouérat to Atâr in Mauritania.

(Left to Right, Giniel de Villiers (RSA), Jean-Claude Vaucard, Carlos Sainz (E)) The South African-German duo that won the stage ahead of French Mitsubishi driver Stéphane Peterhansel and the Spanish-French Volkswagen factory team of Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn is lying 1.39 minutes in front of Sainz/Périn after seven stages in the Race Touareg. Up to the halfway point Volkswagen scored five of seven possible stage victories, with the Race Touareg 2 having maintained the lead throughout the rally since it started on 6 January.
With Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) in the factory Race Touareg in eighth position and Carlos Sousa/Andy Schulz (Portugal/Germany) in the Race Touareg of Team Lagos in ninth, a total of four Volkswagen contenders are among the top ten of the overall classification. Both teams suffered major time losses on the seventh day of the rally. For four-time "Dakar” winner Ari Vatanen and his Italian co-driver Fabrizia Pons the rally ended prematurely because vehicle caught fire. Due to a sand storm, the seventh stage was shortened from the original length of 542 to 407 kilometres.
Standings after stage 7, Zouerat (MR) – Atar (MR); 407/580 km stage 7/overall
Pos.; Team; Vehicle; Stage 7; Total time
1. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (RSA/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h00m46s (1st); 20h04m01s
2. Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (E/F); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h05m36s (3rd) + 1m39s
3. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h03m32s (2nd) + 24m38s
4. Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (F/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h13m55s (6th) + 33m53s
5. Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (J/F); Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution; 4h11m04s (4th) + 1h11m30s
6. Jean-Louis Schlesser/Arnaud Debron (F/F); Schlesser Buggy; 4h47m16s (9th) + 1h12m09s
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Alain Guehennec (QT/F); BMW X3; 4h12m30s (5th) + 1h32m05s
8. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/RSA); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 4h59m43s (11th) + 1h50m39s
9. Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz (P/D); Volkswagen Race Touareg 2; 6h28m20s (42 nd) + 2h38m26s
10. Jose Monterde/Jean-Marie Lurquin (E/B); BMW X5; 5h29m01s (15 th) + 4h03m51s

Coming up…
Saturday, 13 January: rest day in Atar (MR).
Sunday, 14 January, Atar (MR) – Tichit (MR): 589 km stage/626 km overall. The Dakar Rally’s longest special stage is also the first part of the marathon leg. At the stage finish in Tichit merely the drivers of the four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 cars, their co-drivers and the race truck crews registered in the truck classification are allowed to work on the rally vehicles. The eighth leg of the Dakar Rally leads across stony terrain and lots of sand. In the meantime the accompanying squad on 14 January will be travelling directly from Atar to Nema where the racing vehicles are expected to arrive Monday evening (15 January).

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