Volkswagen Notches First Dakar Rally Victory for Clean Diesel Power
The 2009 Dakar Rally was always going to be an event of destiny. Following its cancellation last year due to the potential for terrorist attacks at points along its traditional route through Africa, the event born as the Paris-Dakar in 1980 was transplanted to the wilds of Argentina and Chile for 2009. Beyond that dramatic change of venue, this year's Dakar also marked the first overall win for a clean-diesel powered vehicle, a purpose-built variation on the Volkswagen Touareg theme. This unique VW Race Tourareg 2 is fitted with a 280-horsepower version of the firm's well-proven 2.5-liter TDI engine that offers low emissions, exceptionally reliability and a level of operating efficiency that allows it to reduce the amount of diesel fuel it needs to complete any given distance.
The VW victory, which ended a six-year win streak by Mitsubishi, came courtesy of South African driver Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver, Dirk von Zitzewitz. Volkswagen also collected second place in the overall standings thanks to an identical Red Bull-backed entry piloted by American Mark Miller and South African Ralph Pitchford. The 2009 Dakar could well have ended in a clean sweep for VW's clean diesel contingent had the entry of interim race leader and multi-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz not been eliminated as the result of a horrific crash that saw his Touareg land upside down in an unmarked 12-foot-deep ravine midway through Stage 12 of the event's 14 timed stages. To that point, the Spaniard and co-driver Michel Parin had been fastest in six stages and built up a massive lead as they headed for what looked to be an easy victory.