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The Volkswagen team and its lead driver Carlos Sainz claimed second place yesterday (Sunday) in Portugal in the second round of the Dakar Series. The Spaniard’s TDI-powered Race Touareg was beaten to the Portimão finish line by just 16 seconds by the Mitsubishi of Stéphane Peterhansel.
The result could have been very different: the Spaniard had led the event for three days and looked poised for victory until a final-stage roll-over. ‘Shortly before the end of the stage I received a signal showing me at a 45-second advantage,’ said Carlos. ‘I reduced my pace and apparently lost my concentration a little in the process. The wheels got caught somewhere and we landed on the roof. Thanks to the help of the spectators we were able to finish the rally, and second is still a good result.’
The Volkswagen of South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers finished fourth, less than three minutes off the winner’s pace, to underline the strong showing by the team on what was its final competitive dress rehearsal for the 2009 Dakar Rally. The third Race Touareg, driven by Germany’s Dieter Depping, was forced out on Friday’s third leg when it clipped a tree.
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen was pleased with the result: ‘We saw a tough fight between equal rivals – Volkswagen and Mitsubishi – and either one would have deserved victory. From a technical perspective the Race Touaregs ran perfectly. It was just a small mistake at the end which made the difference.’
The Dakar Rally proper – the first to be held in South America – is scheduled to get underway from Buenos Aires on 3 January.