Nissen: "A lot's been achieved, but nothing won" Volkswagen is outperforming itself in the Dakar Rally with the Race Touareg: Last year’s runner-up Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz are leading the desert classic at the halfway point in Mauritania ahead of their team-mates Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France).
Five of seven possible stage victories were scored by the automobile manufacturer from Wolfsburg who, in addition, has been leading the rally since it started on 6 January. This means that on the rally’s rest day in Atar Volkswagen is presenting itself in a favorable position for the remaining stages until the finish in Dakar, Senegal, on 21 January.
Since the first day of the 2007 Dakar Rally Volkswagen has been proving the advance being made by TDI diesel power: The Portuguese-German duo Carlos Sousa/Andreas Schulz took the lead on the first of two European stages in the Race Touareg fielded by the customer squad "Lagos Team" and defended it for two days. On the third stage from Nador, Morocco, to Er Rachidia the Spanish-French factory pairing of Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn became the front runners. The Spaniard won the second and fifth stage with the 285-hp prototype, lying in front of Giniel de Villiers and Carlos Sousa up to the sixth day of the rally. Immediately before the rest day de Villiers/von Zitzewitz after a total of two stage victories took the lead at the halfway point, 1.39 minutes ahead of Sainz/Périn. Main rival and "Dakar” record winner Mitsubishi, without any stage victory this year so far, follows with Stéphane Peterhansel in third position and a 24.38-minute gap.
With Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) in eighth place and Sousa/Schulz in ninth, two other drivers of a Race Touareg are among the top ten. Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons (Finland/Italy), on the other hand, retired on the seventh stage when their car caught fire. In the second half of the rally that is being staged for the 29th time seven more difficult legs in Mauritania, Mali and Senegal are on the agenda, among them a marathon stage on 14 and 15 January, with regular service by the team being prohibited on the first evening.
Standings after stage 7, Zouerat (MR) – Atar (MR); 407/580 km stage 7/overall
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