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VW expect straight fight with Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi's Luc Alphand and VW's Giniel de VilliersVW Motorsport boss Kris Nissen thinks only his team and the works Mitsubishi squad will have the speed and consistency to challenge for victory in the Dakar Rally, which gets underway on Saturday.

Mitsubishi are seeking an eighth consecutive win in the event, but Volkswagen are mounting a major bid to end their rival's run of success and become the first diesel-fuelled Dakar victors.

"The only one trophy we have missing is the Dakar trophy with the number one on it," said Nissen.

"We are a couple of tenths of a second faster per kilometre after we've done a lot of work on the turbo. Our target is to clearly win this rally; the first to do as such with diesel technology."

Nissen believes NASCAR driver Robby Gordon could match VW and Mitsubishi's pace in his Hummer H3, but anticipates a straight fight between the two leading manufacturer teams.

"Our main rival will be the rally as well as the other teams," he said. "There is a total outsider in the shape of Robby Gordon; very fast and very quick on some days but I think it'll be VW versus Mitsubishi."

VW driver Giniel de Villiers was half an hour clear of the field in 2006 before mechanical problems dropped him to second, and believes this year's event will also be decided by consistency rather than pace.

"It's going to be the guy who makes the least mistakes and has the least problems," he said.

The latest VW Touareg is the least powerful of the works cars, but has undergone significant aerodynamic development in the wind tunnel and using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). It also features new rear suspension to reduce roll, and a flatter bonnet to improve visibility in the sand dunes.

The car is fitted with an air conditioning system that adds weight and slightly reduces power, but also brings the cockpit temperature down from approximately 60 degrees to 50 - a improvement welcomed by the drivers.

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