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1-2-3 VW VICTORY AT DAKAR - NO MEDIA COVERAGE IN MIDDLE EAST

It was very difficult for the Arab rally fans and the Dakar enthusiasts in the Middle East to follow the 2010 Dakar Edition, as there was hardly any professional Arabic media coverage in the whole Middle East region.

This is really a shame especially since this year's Dakar edition was surely one of the most exciting ones with only 2 minutes 12 seconds separating Dakar 2010 winner Carlos Sainz from his VW team mate Qatari driver, both driving the VW Race Touareg.

In the Middle East region the TV coverage was extremely poor, there was hardly any print coverage before or during the rally and none of the important websites in the region published anything about this amazing endurance-rally. I will not even start with the radio coverage here.

Until this article was published (16.01.2010 , 21.00 GMT) Volkswagen Middle East did not even bother to send out one single press release in Arabic or even English language, although for the first time a driver from the Middle East was as close as ever to win the Dakar. Volkswagen Middle East didn't even inform the Middle East media about any activities or engagement of VW for the Dakar 2010, which surely shows that VW Middle East must pay more attention to the professional Middle Eastern motoring media and their audience, as well as to the VW fans in the region.

I hope that in 2010 VW Middle East will pay a little bit more attention to the Arabic motoring media in the Middle East, especially since the Amarok is predestined to become a bestseller in North Africa and the Middle East region. .

Okay, so now we go back to the racing part again. So, how did Volkswagen do in the rally?

Well, Volkswagen has won the legendary Dakar Rally for the second time in succession and including 1980 for a third time. After a �showdown in blue’ the Volkswagen duos and their TDI powered Race Touareg prototypes celebrated a one-two-three podium lockout at the finish of the toughest challenge worldwide in motorsport. In the process, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) triumphed by only 2 minutes 12 seconds ahead of his team mates Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) in a thrilling finale on the closing 202 kilometre sprint on the 14th and final rally day. Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) claimed third position. Last year’s winners Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) finished seventh.

"I’m incredibly proud of our team. It’s stunning what the drivers, co-drivers and the entire team have achieved on every single day of the Dakar Rally. With this one-two-three triumph Volkswagen Motorsport even surpassed its own lofty goals,� says Dr. rer. pol. h. c. Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz, Member of the Board of Management at VOLKSWAGEN AG for procurement, at the finish of the final stage.

Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen explains: "Three weeks ago a highly motivated Volkswagen team came with the goal of successfully defending the �Dakar’ title won last year. Volkswagen has achieved something historical with this one-two-three. We are not only unbeaten in South America, we are also the only manufacturer to have won the world’s hardest rally up to now with diesel technology. The Volkswagen drivers fought amongst themselves for victory all the way to the chequered flag – sometimes by hard but fair means. This is exactly how we imagine motorsport to be. My congratulations therefore go to every Volkswagen duo who would all have been worthy winners.�

Kris Nissen is referring here to the dent which Nasser Al-Attiyah caused in Carlos Sainz when he overtook him during one of the Special Stages.

The Wolfsburg based brand therefore remains the only manufacturer to have won the car category of the Dakar Rally with diesel power. TDI technology was already dominant in 2009 in Argentina and Chile. In addition to the efficiency of the Volkswagen Group’s diesel direct injection technology the Race Touareg’s reliability was the key to the 2010 "Dakar� victory: Despite the extreme demands the powerful 300 hp Race Touareg proved to be not only the most robust, but also the fastest vehicle: Seven of 14 possible stage victories and eleven days in the lead were credited to the four-wheel drive racers from Wolfsburg.

The result of the rally kept observers and fans alike on tenterhooks up to the finish line: Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz, Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford led in this order since the fifth Dakar Rally stage. However, at no point did any driver duo have an unassailable lead. In a strong final burst Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk edged ever closer, repeatedly taking seconds from their Volkswagen team mates Sainz/Cruz and, in doing so, staged an open and hard but fair duel for the leading position. The Qatari/German duo made up ground specifically in the dune sections – which once again formed one of the "Dakar’s� core elements – while the Spanish duo Sainz/Cruz controlled proceedings on the fast, twisty gravel sections.

As varied as the fight in the overall standings was – two stage wins went to Sainz/Cruz, four to Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk, one to Miller/Pitchford –, so challenging proved the 32nd running of the Dakar Rally: In addition to the varied stages across soft, in part powder-like sand and through towering and endless dune fields of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile there were also gravel sections and tracks through enormous boulder fields on the agenda. The multi-faceted acid test with its terrain changing several times a day, two Andes crossings, passages through the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, as well as parts of the legendary Pampa was mastered brilliantly by the Volkswagen Race Touareg. One Race Touareg was always found in the top-three of each stage at the finish, 27 of a possible 42 top-three positions on the 14 stages went to Wolfsburg.

For the new "Dakarâ€? champions Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz a winning streak continued in front of millions of fans lining the daily stages in Argentina and Chile. As newly formed duo in the Volkswagen Race Touareg the Spanish pair remained unbeaten in their third competition together and secured a new superlative in "Dakarâ€? history: Never before have two Spaniards won the legendary desert rally’s automobile category. Sainz/Cruz had previously won the Rallye dos Sert?µes in June and July 2009 as well as the Silk Way Rally in September 2009.

The Volkswagen statistics in cross country rallying make for equally impressive reading: The Wolfsburg based brand is unbeaten since January 2009 and with its second "Dakar� triumph since 2009 continues the Volkswagen Group’s success story with TDI technology: After Audi’s Le Mans victories between 2006 and 2008 and winning the World Touring Car Championship with SEAT in 2008 and 2009, Volkswagen has been successful at the "Dakar� in 2009 and 2010 thanks to TDI Power.

I personally tested many VW TDI engines before and I must say that Volkwagen Middle East would not be very clever if they wouldn't start promoting and offering TDI technology in the Middle East and North Africa after this impressive 1-2-3 Dakar victory. Especially since the Dakar might come to North Africa in 2011.

And I also hope that the Dakar organizers as well as the other car manufacturer, including Volkswagen, will pay more attention next year to the media awareness and the public awareness in the Middle East about this exiting rally.

MS

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