Volkswagen has begun the second week of the 2009 Dakar Rally in style as they continue to lock out the top three positions in the overall standings.
With Mitsubishi down to just one entry and BMW's challenge all but over following the disqualification of erstwhile leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, Volkswagen look well placed to win their first Dakar event.
The battle for the event remains close though, even if a fourth stage win for Carlos Sainz foes now put him ten minutes ahead of Giniel de Villiers. Mark Miller follows in third position.
With an emphasis on maintaining their podium whitewash, motorsport director Kris Nissen is pleased to have reached the second week with no major problems to speak of.
“For Volkswagen, this leg marked a positive beginning of the second 'Dakar' week. After the so-called rest day all four Race Touareg vehicles were running perfectly as usual. Inspecting and working on numerous components on rest day always harbours the risk of something slipping.
“But the entire squad did a superb job – this is also reflected by our result of having four cars among the top five. Now, the really tough days are coming up. Tonight, we'll get together to work out a good strategy for Monday. In view of today's outcome and the resulting early starting positions, our starting base couldn't be any better.”
Sainz, meanwhile, admits he was enjoying the type of stages that harked back to his long career as a World Rally driver.
"These types of rally tracks suit me very well and I really enjoyed the day – even though I did work up a sweat with all that gravel, the many slippery stretches and countless bends. Today called for a lot of work with the steering wheel.
A perfectly prepared car that gave me a lot of confidence made the whole thing quite a bit easier.”
Volkswagen's closest challenger, Mitsubishi's Nani Roma, is now more than half an hour adrift of Sainz.