Carlos Sainz has revealed that he came close to having to concede leg four of this year's Dakar Rally to BMW rival Nasser Al-Attiyah after his Volkswagen Race Touareg suffered a puncture close to the end of the leg.
The pair, co-driven by Michel Périn and Tina Thörner respectively, battled it out for much of the day's route from Jacobacci to Neuquén in western Argentina, before the VW duo eventually gained the upper hand with a lead of six seconds. Sainz revealed later, however, that the distinctive blue-and-silver Touareg had suffered a slow puncture in the last few kilometres, but had managed to make it to the end of the stage.
"Today was very exciting," the Spaniard enthused, "We not only caught up with Nasser Al-Attiyah in the BMW, who started ahead of us, but also went on to overtake him. Things became quite tight again towards the end though, after we suffered a slow puncture. We decided to press on without changing the tyre, but we did have to stop to pump it up again. That did the trick - 0.8 bar was all that was left in the tyre at the finishing line, but we had secured ourselves a six-second lead.”
The fourth stage differed from previous days due to its trial-like sections through dried-up riverbeds and a greater degree of off-road driving but, despite their personal battle, Sainz and Al-Attiyah put more than two minutes between themselves and the third best runner, with the former WRC champion now leading the event by 3min 46secs over his BMW X-raid rival.
"Again, we can say that things went well for Volkswagen on day four," motorsport director Kris Nissen commented, "I'm immensely proud of the entire team, including the drivers, who have done a great job so far in this year's Dakar.
"Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah are currently the fastest in the field, but all the other teams are still hot on their heels. After day four, I would say that, so far, this has been one of the most exciting Dakars ever. There's no doubt about it, bringing this rally to Argentina and Chile was a good idea.”
Giniel de Villiers came in sixth on the day to secure his third place, while Mark Miller posted the fourth best time to keep himself in the top six overall. Dieter Depping, however, followed up his strong third leg with a puncture-blighted day, but overcame two tyre changes to come in eleventh and move up two places in the overall order to sit 13th.
"Today didn't go quite as well as the last few days," the German confirmed, "We forfeited twelve minutes in comparison to the leaders but, having suffered two punctures, I'm happy with this result. Apart from upsets like that, which can happen again and again, the Race Touareg is running like clockwork.”