The Volkswagen team made motorsport history in Argentina on Sunday, claiming the first diesel-powered victory in the history of the world’s toughest motorsport event, the Dakar Rally. Not only that, but the team’s South African driver, Giniel de Villiers, led home a Volkswagen 1-2.
De Villiers, his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, and their TDI-engined Race Touareg crossed the Buenos Aires finish line – after more than 5000 km of competitive rallying – nearly nine minutes ahead of the sister Volkswagen of USA/South Africa pairing Mark Miller and Ralph Pitchford. Third place went to American Hummer pilot Robby Gordon, who was more than 100 minutes adrift.
De Villiers, 36, was ecstatic: ‘I am so happy to have clinched it for Volkswagen. This victory is worth more to me than any of the titles I won in touring car racing. The key to our success was the Race Touareg, which ran like a charm throughout, and I want to thank everyone at Volkswagen for that. I won the first Dakar Rally not staged in Africa, and it was the toughest event I have ever contested: definitely a genuine Dakar Rally.’
Kris Nissen, Volkswagen Motorsport Director, added: ‘We did it. We wanted to be the first manufacturer to win the Dakar Rally with diesel power, and we have achieved that, and with a one-two victory at that, beating our strongest rivals Mitsubishi and BMW.’ Carlos Sainz, who took six of Volkswagen’s 10 special stage victories before crashing out of the rally while leading, paid tribute: ‘Giniel and Dirk deserved to win this tough rally. One must never underestimate the Dakar Rally; you must prevail against it to win.’
There was jubilation in the team also that the Race Touareg of German pairing Dieter Depping and Timo Gottschalk made it to the finish; they placed sixth overall, well over eight hours behind, after several setbacks.
Volkswagen’s 2009 Dakar Rally achievement is the second time that the manufacturer has claimed a 1-2: in 1980, Swede Freddy Kotulinsky and Frenchman Patrick Zaniroli raced their Iltis machines to the top two overall. The Volkswagen win brings to a close seven years of domination by Mitsubishi.
Dakar Rally provisional final standings
1 Giniel de Villiers (RSA) / Dirk von Zitzewitz (GER) – Volkswagen: 48h 10m 57s
2 Mark Miller (USA) / Ralph Pitchford (RSA) – Volkswagen: +8m 59s
3 Robby Gordon / Andy Grider (USA) – Hummer: +1h 46m 15s
4 Ivar Tollefsen (NOR) / Quin Evans (GB) – Nissan: +6h 04m 34s
5 Krzysztof Holowczyz (PL) / Jean-Marc Fortin (B) – Nissan: +6h 37m 49s
6 Dieter Depping / Timo Gottschalk (GER) – Volkswagen : +8h 43m 29s