Sainz Wins 2011 Dakar Rally Opener

Carlos Sainz and Volkswagen began their title defense in the Dakar Rally perfectly in 2011, after the Spaniard scored the fastest times at all Stage 1 control points of the South American event to eventually finish the Sunday action some 91 seconds ahead of second placed Stephane Peterhansel, driving his X-Raid prepared BMW.

Sainz had little trouble clinching the Dakar opener from Victoria to Cordoba - despite the rain that affected the stage a bit - being the pace setter throughout the 222 km of running. Dakar's legendary Peterhansel was the only one who managed to maintain a competitive pace on Sunday, as he was the only X-Rain BMW present in the Top 5.

To make things worse for BMW, Volkswagen placed 4 of its Touareg's inside the Top 5, with Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah coming in third, ahead of American Mark Miller and 2009 Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers.

Today we experienced a superb performance of our drivers and co-drivers. The cars are perfectly prepared,” said VW motorsport boss Kris Nissen.

I'm happy to see all of our team members working with absolute concentration at the start of the rally and not allowing themselves to get distracted by the huge crowd nor by the pressure caused by the expectations of the journalists.”

The conditions on the first leg were very difficult due to the large amount of water on the track. It's hard to judge who was most heavily affected by this. With four cars among the top five Volkswagen experienced a tremendous start,” he concluded.

X-Raid's Mini Countryman All4 Racing experienced some mechanical problems from the get go and forced Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit to arrive at the end of the stage some half an hour late, damaging his chances for a good result in 2011.

Trouble is that tomorrow we will pay for today's problems because it will be a long stretch and it will be very hard to pass other cars,” said the Frenchman.
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