August 22nd, 2006, 10:39
New driver pairing for "Dakar": Volkswagen with Miller/Pitchford
2007 Dakar Rally New driver pairing for “Dakar“: Volkswagen with Miller/Pitchford
Wolfsburg (22 August 2006) The American Mark Miller and the South African Ralph Pitchford in the Volkswagen Race Touareg are forming a new driver/co-driver combination for the 2007 Dakar Rally. The signing of Miller/Pitchford means that the third pairing of the Volkswagen factory team – alongside two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (Spain) and Michel Périn (France) as well as the South African Giniel de Villiers, the runner-up in this year’s “Dakar” in the Race Touareg, and the German Dirk von Zitzewitz – has been confirmed. While 43-year-old Mark Miller, after claiming fifth place in January, will be contesting the upcoming 29th edition of the desert classic (06 to 21 January) for the Wolfsburg-based automotive manufacturer for the second time, his co-driver Ralph Pitchford (44) is a newcomer to the team.
"Mark Miller is an exceptionally fast and committed driver and, on top of that, a real team player,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "That’s why we’re happy to be able to continue working with Mark during the 2007 Dakar Rally. In the 2006 edition he truly added value and his co-driver Ralph Pitchford in his first competition for us will probably be doing the same. We’ve come to know Ralph’s professional style of working during test drives in Tunisia and think that he, like all our drivers and co-drivers, embodies the determination of Volkswagen Motorsport."
For Mark Miller, who in the legendary hillclimb race at Pikes Peak (USA) in a production-derived Volkswagen Touareg clinched his first class victory in early July, this will be the second "Dakar” with Volkswagen Motorsport, and his fourth altogether. "Compared to last season, the team has improved yet again," says Miller, who calls Phoenix, Arizona (USA) home and has won the popular U.S. Rally Baja 1000 on several occasions. "Even more so than before we’re all working towards the common goal of winning the most famous and most difficult desert rally for Volkswagen. Kris Nissen has put together a genuine team in which everyone is working to help everyone else. I’m happy to be part of this team and will try and contribute my part to the team’s success through good performances.”
During seven-day test drives in Tunisia – simulating the competitive conditions of the Dakar Rally - the Miller/Pitchford duo was able to get adjusted to one another. "Ralph and I not only speak the same language when it comes to words," says Mark Miller. "This facilitates communications. In upcoming tests we’ll get even more used to each other and form a striking team." Ralph Pitchford, whose racing career started in motocross, finished in 15th place overall in the 2006 Dakar Rally as the co-driver of his compatriot Alfie Cox.
August 22nd, 2006 10:39
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