De Villiers claims historic Dakar win
|By Matt Beer||Saturday, January 17th 2009, 14:16 GMT|
Giniel de Villiers has clinched a historic Dakar Rally victory for Volkswagen, taking the first diesel-powered win in the event in its first year in its new South American location.
Mark Miller completed a VW one-two, as this year's dominant team cruised through the final days over an hour clear of the rest of the field.
It should have been a top three sweep for VW, had Carlos Sainz not crashed out of the lead on Thursday. The former World Rally champion had led for most of the rally, only to slide into a ravine with just two days to go, leaving his co-driver Michel Perin with shoulder injuries that forced them to withdraw.
With Miller losing a lot of time in the same stage, de Villiers suddenly vaulted from a distant third - 41 minutes adrift - into the rally lead, where he remained through today's deciding run from Cordoba back to Buenos Aires.
"Absolutely incredible," said de Villiers, who was also fastest in the final stage. "I've never experienced such a feeling before. I was very nervous in the last couple of kilometres, but it's an unbelievable feeling.
"I'm so happy for the team and everyone back at Volkswagen, who've been supporting us for five years to get this win."
Miller drove conservatively and ultimately finished eight minutes behind his victorious teammate.
"The team won, that was our goal," he said. "It could have been Giniel or me, and that's the way it works. I'm a young guy and I'm going to have plenty of chances, I hope."
While VW celebrated, it was a disastrous event for Mitsubishi. The winners of the last seven Dakars hoped their brand new diesel Lancer could continue that streak, but took just one fastest stage time, never led the event, and lost three of their four works cars early on. Joan Roma's eventual 10th place was little consolation.
With Mitsubishi under-performing, the X-Raid BMW team proved to be VW's main rivals. Nassar Al-Attiyah battled for the lead with Sainz in the opening days, only to be disqualified for missing waypoints while trying to protect an overheating engine.
Third place finally went to Robby Gordon, despite the Hummer driver having some late scares with a stuck throttle yesterday and a flat tyre today. But with a vast advantage over Overdrive Nissan drivers Ivar Erik Tollefsen and Krzysztof Holowczyc in fourth and fifth places, Gordon was still able to make it home in third.
Stage 14 results: Pos Driver Car Time 1. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen 1h35:43 2. Leonid Novitskiy BMW + 2 3. Krzysztof Holowczyc Nissan + 17 4. Joan Roma Mitsubishi + 38 5. Guerlain Chicherit BMW + 50 6. Mark Miller Volkswagen + 6:39 7. Rene Kuipers BMW + 9:02 8. Matthias Kahle Honda + 9:14 9. Bruce Garland Isuzu + 9:31 10. Ivar Erik Tollefsen Nissan + 9:33 Overall results: Pos Driver Car Time 1. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen 48h10:57 2. Mark Miller Volkswagen + 8:59 3. Robby Gordon Hummer + 1h46:15 4. Ivar Erik Tollefsen Nissan + 6h04:34 5. Krzysztof Holowczyc Nissan + 6h37:49 6. Dieter Depping Volkswagen + 8h43:29 7. Miroslav Zapletal Mitsubishi +11h03:08 8. Leonid Novitskiy BMW +13h15:13 9. Guerlain Chicherit BMW +14h49:49 10. Joan Roma Mitsubishi +17h27:46