A quarter of a century after becoming the first German manufacturer to win the Dakar Rally, Volkswagen has written a further page in the history of the world’s toughest rally with one of its Race-Touaregs claiming the event’s first podium finish by a diesel-powered car.
German driver Jutta Kleinschmidt and her Italian co-driver Fabrizia Pons crossed the finish line in the Senegalese capital in third place overall after 9000 km of African desert hardship. A sister Race-Touareg driven by Bruno Saby took fifth place, and a third Volkswagen, driven by American Robby Gordon, was 12th.
Kleinschmidt was delighted with her result: ‘It’s a very special podium place for me,’ said Jutta. ‘I think that Volkswagen really deserved this success; we made a good impression and had good results from the beginning. First Robby led, then Bruno, then Fabrizia and I finished on the podium. A podium finish was our goal and it’s absolutely fantastic that it all worked out.’
Kleinschmidt’s progress to the podium was the result of hard work and some strong stage performances. She moved into third on January 5 and consolidated her position with a stage victory on the 11th of the 16 legs and two further top-three stage finishes. Gordon was the sensation of the early legs, setting fastest time on the first and fourth stages before losing several hours through a roll. His fight back from 101st place to 12th was one of the highlights of the 2005 Dakar.
Frenchman Saby also took his turn at the head of the field, taking over the lead on the sixth stage from Smara to Zouerat in Mauritania before suffering technical problems the next day after a hard landing from a dune jump. He and his co-driver Michel Perin fought hard to regain the top five. Today they claimed the honour of victory on the final stage, taking Volkswagen’s fourth stage win.
‘The Dakar Rally was a huge success for Volkswagen,’ said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. ‘All team members worked extremely well and we made a huge step forward on the engineering side. We will work very hard over the next 11 months to make the next step…’Published 18 January 2005