Volkswagen continues running in front at Dakar with three cars

Pete Mait

Volkswagen has kept the upper hand with three cars leading the event, even on the extremely demanding tenth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally: Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn in the Race Touareg extended their advantage in the overall classification by another 7.39 minutes, to 27.31 minutes. On the loop around Copiapó in Chile, which contained a lot of camel grass and high dune fields with soft sand as well as stony and rough sections, the duo clinched its sixth stage victory with a narrow lead. After 470 kilometres through the Atacama desert merely 21 seconds separated the Volkswagen team from Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA) in the Hummer. For Sainz, who is just contesting his third "Dakar", this marked as much as the 15th stage victory in the off-road classic.

Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford solidified their second place overall in the rally by setting the third-best time of the day despite a puncture. For the first time, Volkswagen's outright advantage over their best rival has increased to over one hour: ranking fourth overall, Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz as the only remaining Mitsubishi team are trailing Carlos Sainz by as much as 1:13 hour. The drivers in the Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart, Nani Roma & Lucas Cruz, survived what should have been the longest and toughest in the Dakar 2009. The Spanish pair finished the 670km loop in the Atacama desert in fifth place, after it was shortened to 476km by the organisers, and the two stay fourth in the overall.

The originally planned eleventh leg involving the crossing of the Andes and the border from Chile to Argentina has been cancelled due to a prediction of inclement weather, and converted into a liaison stage.