Dakar 2011: Carlos Sainz leads a thunderstorm riddled first leg

Dakar 2011: Carlos Sainz leads a thunderstorm riddled first leg

Link to oneighturbo.com

Dakar 2011: Carlos Sainz leads a thunderstorm riddled first leg

Posted: 02 Jan 2011 02:00 PM PST

Carlos Sainz, Lucas Cruz, Dakar 2011, Argentina

The Dakar Rally started with the first stage win for Volkswagen. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) are leading the desert classic in the Volkswagen Race Touareg 3 after the first of 13 legs by 1m 31s ahead of X-raid BMW driver Stéphane Peterhansel.

The team colleagues of last year’s winners made a good showing on the 788-kilometer stage between Victoria and Córdoba in Argentina as well. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) finished the gravel stage in rain as the third-best contenders with a gap of 2m 16s. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) followed in fourth place with a 4m 17s gap. The Volkswagen foursome at the front of the field was completed by Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) in fifth place overall and a gap of 5m 06s.

As many as three thunderstorms made the passage of the first leg a slippery endeavor. The 222 kilometers of the first special stage out of the total distance of 5,020 turned into gushing streams of mud and water. The main task of the four pairings in the Race Touareg 3 was to get their vehicles through the demanding gravel passages with slopes up to an altitude of 1,000 meters above mean sea level quickly and unharmed. In view of the many boulders alongside the road even small mistakes could have easily meant the end of the race.

Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
“Today we experienced a superb performance of our drivers and co-drivers. The cars are perfectly prepared. I’m happy to see all of our team members working with absolute concentration at the start of the rally and not allowing themselves to get distracted by the huge crowd nor by the pressure caused by the expectations of the journalists. The conditions on the first leg were very difficult due to the large amount of water on the track. It’s hard to judge who was most heavily affected by this. With four cars among the top five Volkswagen experienced a tremendous start. Obviously, we’re going to continue our work on Monday and on the following legs highly motivated in order to master the upcoming tasks.”

#300 – Carlos Sainz (E), 1st place leg / 1st place overall
“We were in for a tough stage right at the beginning of the Dakar Rally. After about 30 kilometers we hit a heavy rain shower on the special stage. Although we used the fastest delay control setting for the wipers, they weren’t able to displace the large amount of water. Then the rain disappeared as quickly as it had come. Afterwards we encountered soft gravel. Obviously it’s great to open the ‘Dakar’ with the fastest time on a special stage but it doesn’t mean anything at this point in time.”

#302 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 3rd place leg / 3rd place overall
“The opener to the first ‘Dakar’ special stage was promising. We found a good pace but then heard a suspicious noise and decided to proceed with caution during the remainder of the stage. I’m sure that nothing was damaged on the Race Touareg 3 because the car is much too reliable for that to have happened. Still, we’ll check on the noise during the service. On the first day of such a long rally you can lose more than you can win. All in all, I’m pleased because our gap to our team colleague Carlos Sainz isn’t too large.”

#304 – Mark Miller (USA), 4th place leg / 4th place overall
“Like last year, we went into the first special stage as though we’d stiffened up. In other words, we were a little too cautious again. Afterwards, we were caught right in the middle of the thunderstorm. At home in Colorado we’ve got such rain storms where you can’t see the hand in front of your eyes. That’s the way it was here today. It was so slippery that my co-driver Ralph Pitchford kept shouting that I shouldn’t slide into the rocks at the edge of the road. That was more than a piece of hard work. Last year we lost about six minutes on the same special stage, this time it was only a little over four – so we’ve improved.”

#308 – Giniel de Villiers (ZA), 5th place leg / 5th place overall
“We were caught by thunderstorms as many as three times today. And that wasn’t just rain but really a feeling like doomsday. The track became increasingly slippery and we lost time to the drivers who had started in front of us. Even though we were still looking for our rhythm on the first few kilometers, I’m relatively pleased – because our biggest gap was caused by sections that were soaked by rain and extremely slippery. But it’s nothing we couldn’t recover during the next twelve legs.”

Related posts:

  1. Dakar 2011: Comments from the Volkswagen drivers before the start

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