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Ten out of ten possible stage wins, four lead changes and a captivating duel: Volkswagen decided the Rallye dos Sertões in Brazil in their favour with a one-two win and thus took the first successful step in the title defence the brand targets at the Dakar Rally in January 2010.
The all-Spanish factory duo in the Race Touareg, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz Senra, secured third place on the final stage of the rally regarded as the toughest and longest cross-country after the legendary "Dakar” and thus clinched overall victory. On the tenth and last special stage between Caicó and Natal, which covered 85 kilometres of narrow gravel tracks and sandy sections, Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) took the stage win and finished as the overall runners-up, just 1m 09s behind Sainz/Cruz Senra. The team-internal duel for stage victories ended in a score of 6:4 for the newly formed duo Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk. The Brazilian pairing Maurício Neves/Eduardo Bampi in another 280-hp diesel prototype from Wolfsburg finished the rally in sixth place overall.
Carlos Sainz vs. Nasser Al-Attiyah: nail-biting duel for the top position
Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz Senra and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk delivered a nail-biting duel for victory to the countless cheering spectators of the Rallye dos Sertões, who enthusiastically welcomed the "Blue Frogs” – as the "Dakar” winning cars are affectionately nicknamed by the Brazilian fans due to their uncompromising off-road-capable shape – every day in the towns where the stages finished. In the well-balanced fight between the two new pairings who have been put together for the next Dakar Rally the largest gap during the rally was just a little more than ten minutes, and on the eighth day of the rally a mere three seconds. The Volkswagen duos took turns leading the event a total of four times.
Ideal "Dakar” preparation: toughest cross-country rally after the off-road classic
The track profile of the 17th edition of the Rallye dos Sertões made maximum demands on man and machine on the 5,036-kilometre route from the start in Goiânia to the finish in Natal. Extremely narrow gravel trails along farm roads alternated with washed-out trial passages and sections with deep, soft sand. The rally featured very quick as well as slow special stages. For Volkswagen, it was an ideal test for the Dakar Rally in January 2010, which will again be held in Argentina and Chile. Unlike at the "Dakar”, there was no day of rest scheduled during the ten-day rally. Consequently, the "Sertões” was a serious test for the entire team, from the drivers and co-drivers to the mechanics, in terms of technology, logistics and endurance. The "Sertões” also included numerous water passages which posed additional challenges during the cross-country rally through Brazil.
Besides the Rallye dos Sertões the Silk-Way-Rallye from 05 to 13 September – organised by "Dakar” organiser A.S.O. – through the Russian republic of Tatarstan as well as through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan is part of the preparation for the 2010 "Dakar”.
Pressure test in team-internal duel: new duos prove themselves in Brazil
At their first joint performances both "Dakar” pairings, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz Senra as well as Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk, demonstrated why they were signed for the Volkswagen brand’s "Dakar” programme. Nasser Al-Attiyah, the personable driver from Qatar, competed for the first time together with his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk and – with stage wins during the first six days of the rally – delivered a strong showing as a new team member. Carlos Sainz shared the cockpit of the 280-hp Race Touareg for the first time with Lucas Cruz Senra. This combination worked successfully as well. As early as on the second leg the all-Spanish duo was victorious and captured the lead on the penultimate leg of the 2009 "Sertões”.
Brazilian duo in sixth place overall despite setbacks
The Brazilian duo Maurício Neves/Eduardo Bampi in a third factory-fielded and factory-prepared Volkswagen Race Touareg finished sixth overall despite smaller setbacks. The local heroes were struck by misfortune as early as on the second day of the "Sertões”. A motorcycle rider obstructed them on one of the numerous narrow wooden bridges. While passing the rider Neves/Bampi damaged their rear suspension. Despite a gap of several hours they subsequently moved forwards in the overall standings by clinching a total of seven top-three stage finishes – including three second and four third places.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"If I could award a maximum of five stars for perfect work I’d give each and every team member exactly five stars. The one-two victory here in Brazil can be credited equally to the team and the drivers. The work of the entire crew was perfect, just as it was at the Dakar Rally. The outstanding job by Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah and their co-drivers makes me just as optimistic about the future. Both would have deserved victory and, in the end, were separated by just a few minutes after a tough fight. The Brazilian pairing Maurício Neves and Eduardo Bampi, without a lot of experience in the car, did a great job as well. I’m proud of the entire squad.”
#301 – Carlos Sainz (E), 3rd place leg / 1st place overall
"A victory that makes me very happy, clinched after a hard fight. The ‘Sertões’ was truly a challenge for us drivers. The special stages were long and extremely demanding, the terrain exceptional varied, and a continuous change of rhythm demanded full concentration. For me and my co-driver Lucas Cruz Senra it was a good test to get used to each other in the cockpit in competitive conditions. I think we definitely achieved this. That we won our first joint rally against such strong team-internal rivals was the icing on the cake.”
#301 – Lucas Cruz Senra (E), co-driver
"When you first join a team there’s an incredible number of influences to deal with. You’ve got to familiarise yourself with new team colleagues, new technicians, new engineers and, in particular, a new driver in every detailed aspect in order to be able to deliver a top performance. That I managed to do this with a victory straight away in my maiden race with Carlos Sainz makes me feel proud. Especially because the ‘Sertões’ is the longest and toughest rally after the ‘Dakar’. In some sections it was even tougher.”
#302 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q), 1st place leg / 2nd place overall
"The Rallye dos Sertões was my first competition with Volkswagen and I’m more than happy with the result. Everyone in the team works in a highly professional manner; the technical crew members love their jobs and give everything to achieve success. I need to thank them because they made it possible for me to make such a great debut with material that was always one-hundred-percent right. Thanks to the team spirit and my co-driver Timo Gottschalk, with whom I got on perfectly from the outset, I’m sure that I’ll be able to make my dream of winning the ‘Dakar’ come true.”
#302 – Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver
"Quite honestly: Before the ‘Sertões’ almost none of us thought that the rally would be this tough. It was a really competitive test for Volkswagen to prepare for the Dakar Rally in January and it showed that it’s regarded as the second-toughest and second-longest cross-country of the world for good reason. The communication with Nasser Al-Attiyah in the cockpit worked smoothly just about from the start. The ‘Sertões’ offered the optimum opportunity for us to get accustomed to each other.”
#309 – Maurício Neves (BR), 2nd place leg / 6th place overall
"To compete in such a professional and well organised team as the Volkswagen team was like entering a new world for me. Every day we learned more about the car and the way the team works. We were able to always fully concentrate on our job. Unfortunately, a few mistakes repeatedly set us back somewhat, so we weren’t able to fully meet our own expectations. Nevertheless, contesting the ‘Sertões’ with Volkswagen has made a dream come true for us.”
#309 – Eduardo Bampi (BR), co-driver
"The Rallye dos Sertões in 2009 had everything a cross-country rally stands for. All sorts of terrain were included: stones, gravel, sand, mud or water passages. To have the chance to contest this event with the world’s best off-road vehicle was a great honour for us. And we’re proud of that. If I could pick a place and time to be at, I’d choose exactly the place and time we’re at right now.”
Modified by phaeton at 9:36 AM 7-4-2009