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Volkswagen sign De Villiers and Thorner for Dakar Rally

Wolfsburg (29th April 2005).
Volkswagen claim two new high-calibre team members for the 2006 Dakar Rally event: The South African Giniel de Villiers and the Swedish lady Tina Thörner strengthen the Volkswagen Motorsport team as third driver/co-driver duo alongside Jutta Kleinschmidt and Fabrizia Pons and Bruno Saby and Michel Périn.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of such a quick and experienced driver as Giniel de Villiers and with Tina Thörner an equally skilful co-driver for our team”; explains Kris Nissen, Volkswagen Motorsport Director.
“Giniel was always in the leading pack during his three ‘Dakar’ competitions, and Tina has a great deal of experience and vast knowledge of navigating through the desert. The pair really is a strong addition and will help to bring our team an important step further.”

Giniel de Villiers and Tina Thörner acquainted themselves with the Volkswagen Race-Touareg in tests held this week, where they supported team mate Bruno Saby during engine tests.

"I felt immediately at home in the Race-Touareg and also in the team”, comments de Villiers.
"I got really hooked and can’t wait to drive the Race-Touareg more often during the forthcoming months.”

Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen has already scheduled his new signings to assist in the next tests:
"In Morocco, Giniel and Tina will be make endurance runs, so called long-runs up to and over 700 kilometres per day. We will integrate the two of them completely into our team from the very first day. In this way they will have the chance to gather a huge amount of experience with the Race-Touareg over a very short space of time.”

Experienced Giniel de Villiers at the ‘Dakar’
Giniel de Villiers was driving for Nissan between 1994 and the beginning of 2005 and competed regularly in circuit and rally events for the Japanese marque.

"I’ve reached a point in my career where I need a new challenge. I’m very happy to be able to follow my sporting goals together with Volkswagen”, says the South African, who has competed in three Dakar Rallies to date and, on each occasion, beat his more illustrious team mates Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen and was, as a result, always the best driver of his marque.

The African cross country classic is also the main focus of attention at Volkswagen.
"Our goal is to be as well prepared as possible for the 2006 Dakar Rally. This also means that Giniel and Tina will contest Cross Country Rally World Cup events”, explains Kris Nissen.

Tina Thörner – the perfect partner in the co-driver’s seat

Tina Thörner is perfect candidate as co-driver for de Villiers.
"We contested two rallies together during the 2003 season and won the Moroccan Rally”, explains de Villiers.

"Tina is very experienced, particularly in the Dakar Rally, and we also get on exceptionally well outside the cockpit which is an excellent basis for the long Cross Country Rally events.”

The 39-year old Swede competed as co-driver in the World Rally Championship between 1985 and 1998, before switching to Cross Country Rallying where she worked together with various drivers including Jutta Kleinschmidt.

"I drove for Skoda in the World Rally Championship and my partner Mattias Ekström competes for Audi in touring cars. I am all the more pleased that I now have the chance to drive for the Volkswagen works team”, explains Tina Thörner, who speaks fluent German and also presents automobile programmes for Swedish television.

"I have complete and utter confidence in Giniel since he and I contested two rallies together in the past and also worked together in the same team later. Giniel is a very good driver, he is able to assess the track conditions perfectly and drive tactically – skills that pay dividends in the Dakar Rally.”

Guest appearance in ADAC Volkswagen Polo Cup at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz
Giniel de Villiers revisits his roots in his first competition for Volkswagen:
He drives the VIP car at the second round of the ADAC Volkswagen Polo Cup at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz (29 April to 1 May).

De Villiers was regarded as one of the most successful touring car drivers in his homeland before swapping to cross country rallying.
De Villiers is highly motivated before his one-off guest appearance in the "Touring Car School”, held with powerful 150 PS Race-Polos.

"I’m really excited about my guest start in the Polo Cup, since it is almost ten years ago that I last drove such a small car in competition. I drove a Super Touring Car with a sequential gearbox in the last circuit races in which I competed in up to the year 2000.
That’s one reason why I’m even more intrigued than ever to see how I compare with the ‘stars of tomorrow.”

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