Ten out of ten possible stage wins, four lead changes and a captivating duel: Volkswagen decided the Rally dos Sertes in Brazil in their favor with a one-two win and took the first successful step in the title defense the brand targets at the Dakar Rally in January 2010.
The all-Spanish factory duo in the Race Touareg, Carlos Sainz / Lucas Cruz Senra, clinched overall victory on the rally, regarded as the toughest and longest cross-country after the legendary `Dakar'. On the tenth and last special stage between Caic and Natal, which covered 85 kilometers 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 Maurcio Neves / Eduardo Bampi in another 280-hp diesel prototype from Wolfsburg finished the rally in sixth place overall.
The track profile of the 17th edition of the Rally dos Sertes made maximum demands on man and machine on the 5,036-kilometre route from the start in Goinia to the finish in Natal. Extremely narrow gravel trails along farm roads alternated with washed-out trial passages and sections with deep, soft sand. For Volkswagen, it was an ideal test for the Dakar Rally in January 2010, which will again be held in Argentina and Chile.
Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Kris Nissen, commented: "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 Maurcio 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."
Carlos Sainz added: "A victory that makes me very happy, clinched after a hard fight. The `Sertes' was truly a challenge for the drivers. The special stages were long and extremely demanding, the terrain exceptionally 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."