Volkswagen driver Al-Attiyah takes lead at Dakar Rally –

Volkswagen driver Al-Attiyah takes lead at Dakar Rally

Wolfsburg (03 January 2010). With a stage victory to the top – the Volkswagen factory duo Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) decided the second stage of the Dakar Rally in their favour. After coming fourth today, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) in another one of the 300-hp Race Touareg cars powered by TDI diesel engines are ranking in second place overall with a gap of just 1m 19s.

The factory squad continued the solid team performance from the previous day: Maurício Neves/Clécio Maestrelli (BR/BR) secured third place on the special stage between Córdoba and La Rioja, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) fifth and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz eighth place. This means that all five Race Touareg vehicles are among the top six in the overall standings of the world’s toughest rally.

The special stage that took the “Dakar” participants in a north-westerly direction featured quick gravel passages as well as jumps and lengthy bends. In addition, there were rougher and stonier sections on the agenda of this special.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)

“It was an outstanding day for Volkswagen because things went very well. Those who were in one of the front starting positions today were clearly at a disadvantage. Tomorrow, we’ll be in for a difficult stage. But I’m very happy with our stage and overall results and therefore I’m confident that we’ll be able to continue this way tomorrow.”

#300 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 8th place leg / 6th place overall

“It was a strenuous and long day that, due to overnight rainfalls, started with muddy ground, partial fog and poor visibility and kept us busy with many slippery places. On a hilltop I caught a stone alongside the track which gave us a slow puncture. We lost a little bit of time until we found a place to change the tyre. But the rally will only really get started tomorrow with the first dune stage.”

#303 – Carlos Sainz (E), 4th place leg / 2nd place overall

“Today was anything but easy. As early as after two kilometres we overtook Nani Roma in the X-raid-BMW who had gotten off the track. That’s why we had the honour of opening the route, which was really tricky: in the mud and fog of the first part we acted cautiously the twisty section on gravel was physically strenuous. We’re still in a good position for the days ahead.”

#305 – Mark Miller (USA), 5th place leg / 4th place overall

“Today really put us to the test in the cockpit for four solid hours and took quite a toll on us. We’re very pleased with the result. Our goal for this stage was to stay within a striking distance and we managed doing that. Now, we’re looking forward to the first real dune stage. The last kilometres in the dunes were a few months ago, so we’re really hot to tackle them.”

#306 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 1st place leg / 1st place overall

“At the beginning – like yesterday – I was cautious. But when the muddy and slippery part was over we attacked a little more. I think we found a good pace without taking too much of a risk. Actually it felt as though we hadn’t been driving all that fast. But the stage victory shows that we did everything right.”

#312 – Maurício Neves (BR), 3rd place leg / 5th place overall

“Fantastic. I really like this type of stage. It was very demanding technically, many bends alternated with downhill and uphill sections. We didn’t have a single problem, did a good job of calculating the risk and thus avoided punctures. In addition, my co-driver Clécio Maestrelli did an outstanding job. We’re more than pleased. We’re overjoyed with having clinched third place today.”

Number of the day

The fastest spring deflection motion of a Race Touareg was measured on the second rally day on the vehicle of Maurício Neves at 8.3 metres per second – more than ten times faster than a road-going vehicle. On average, the 300-hp “Dakar” prototype of the Volkswagen factory driver, which is equipped with dampers from partner ZF Sachs, achieved over 20 of the maximum permissible 25 centimetres of suspension travel more than 35 times per kilometre.

Three questions for car chief Martin Hassenpflug

You are assigned as chief mechanic for Nasser Al-Attiyah’s car. Experience is said to be of paramount importance at the “Dakar”…

“The 2010 ‘Dakar’ is indeed my sixth one already and for two years I’ve been working as car chief: last year for Dieter Depping’s vehicle and now for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk. It’s immensely important to know every nut and bolt of the Race Touareg inside and out in order to be precise and efficient. After having prepared the car from scratch together with the other members of the car crew it’s like your own baby, so it goes without saying that you want to do your job every day with due meticulousness.”

Work within the car crew is organised according to a strict hierarchy. What does the process flow during a service look like?

“The car chief is the connecting link between the race engineer and the mechanics and ensures that the work is distributed as perfectly as possible. He is also responsible for all the jobs to be done on the car. Everyone in the team knows in advance exactly what their tasks are with respect to the service and the checks. But in the event that something out of the ordinary should have to be done, as the chief mechanic, I assign the respective work.”

So, you’re the contact person for the race engineer on the one hand and your fellow mechanics on the other. What traits does a good car chief have to possess?

“First of all, you’ve got to set an example and be a total team player. After all, the Dakar Rally is the toughest one in the world and that goes for the daily service too. Consequently, at times it’s necessary to practice the art of motivation. It’s possible for anyone to have a bad day now and then, but everyone in the squad wants to do as perfect a job as possible. So, careful attention to detail is another typical trait of a mechanic.”

Standings after leg 02, Córdoba (RA)–La Rioja (RA); 355/687 km SS 02/total

Pos.; Team; Vehicle; Leg 02; Total time

1 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 4h 01m 55s (1) 6h 16m 39s

2 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 4h 04m 36s (4) + 1m 19s

3 Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F) BMW X3 CC 4h 05m 04s (6) + 2m 30s

4 Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 4h 04m 39s (5) + 5m 28s

5 Maurício Neves/Clécio Maestrelli (BR/BR) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 4h 03m 56s (3) + 5m 40s

6 Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 4h 08m 10s (8) + 7m 17s

7 Carlos Sousa/Matthieu Baumel (P/F) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer 4h 08m 15s (9) + 10m 13s

8 Nani Roma/Michel Périn (E/F) BMW X3 CC 4h 17m 08s (18) + 11m 44s

9 Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA) Hummer 4h 13m 04s (11) + 12m 28s

10 Christian Lavieille/Jean-Paul Forthomme (F/B) Nissan Pick-up 4h 08m 09s (7) + 12m 50s

Coming up next …

Monday, 04 January: 3rd leg, La Rioja (RA)–Fiambalá (RA). The special stage between La Rioja and Fiambalá was the pinnacle of the past 2009 Dakar Rally in the opposite direction. The Sierras Pampeanas, sand galore and the famous towering white dunes provide the terrain to be mastered on the third day of the competition. But in view of many tricky forks in the roads the stage demands both highly accomplished driving and navigational skills.