Historic Dakar win for VW
Former world rally champion Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz of Spain led an historic Volkswagen 1-2-3 in the 32nd Dakar Rally in Argentina on Saturday when they brought their Race Touareg home in a time of 47h 10m 00s after 14 days and 9 000 km of marathon off road racing.
It was an emphatic victory for the man they call El Matador, who had led from stage five on January 6. It also made up for the disappointment he experienced 12 months ago when he crashed out of the 2009 Dakar on stage five while leading.
This time he made no mistake and finished a slim 2m 12s ahead of team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Timo Gottschalk of Germany and 32m 51s in front of American Mark Miller and South African Ralph Pitchford in the third Volkswagen. Miller and Pitchford, who is the South African off road champion co-driver, finished second in last year’s Dakar.
It was Volkswagen’s third Dakar win after previous victories in 1980 (with a Volkswagen Iltis) and last year with De Villiers in a Race Touareg.
Fourth overall and the first non-Volkswagen to complete the gruelling event was the BMW X3 of nine-times Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret. They were 2h 17m 21s behind the winning Volkswagen. Fellow Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and Swede Tina Thorner were fifth in a BMW X3, a further 1h 45m 53s back.
Defending champion Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz finished seventh overall in a Race Touareg, 5h 10m 19s behind Sainz. Any chance De Villiers had of winning a second Dakar was dashed when his Volkswagen suffered electrical problems in stage three on January 4 and he had to wait for his assistance truck, losing over two hours.
For the rest of the rally he played a support role to his team-mates, carrying spares that slowed him down and stopping to render assistance when needed. Despite this he almost won stage eight on January 10 when he led with just seven kilometres remaining, only to drop back to fourth after picking up a puncture.
The final stage of the 14 that made up the 9 000-km event, from Santa Rosa to Buenos Aires, was won by Al-Attiyah, who made a supreme effort to haul in his team-mate. Sainz was not to be denied and finished just 36s behind the Qatari. Third and fourth were French team-mates Guerlain Chicherit and Stephane Peterhansel in BMW X3s, followed by Miller and Pitchford and De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz.
Cyril Despres won his third Dakar Rally when he took the bike category convincingly on a KTM. The Frenchman finished 1h 02m 52s ahead of Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) and 1h 09m 48s in front of Francisco Lopez Contardo of Chile (Aprilia).
1 Carlos Sainz (Spain) VW Race Touareg, 47h 10m 00s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) VW Race Touareg, +2 12s
3 Mark Miller (America) VW Race Touareg, +32m 51s
4 Stephane Peterhansel (France) BMW X3, +2h 17m 21s
5 Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW X3, +4h 02m 49s
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM, 51h 10m 37s
2 Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM, +1h 02m 52s
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Chile) Aprilia, +1h 09m 48s
4 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Yamaha, +1h 19m 33s
5 David Fretigne (France) Yamaha, 1h 55m 56s