2006 UAE Desert Challenge
Leg 4 Moreeb - Moreeb
Liaison 6 km, Special 378.90 km, Liaison 123.10 km - Total 508.00 km

Qatar's Nasser Bin Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec will start the final day of the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge in fifth place, courtesy of setting the second fastest time behind Spain's Carlos Sainz in the longest selective section of the entire event on Thursday.

Starting from fourth place on the stage this morning, the Qatari was the fastest driver at the first passage control, 45 seconds quicker than a tying Carlos Sainz and event leader Luc Alphand.

Through PC2, where some teams were able to benefit from refuelling during the 15-minute stop, Al-Attiyah was still the quickest driver on the special, 1:24 min quicker than Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel.

He maintained his lead at PC3, as the leading group of Peterhansel, Alphand, Sainz and Al-Attiyah arrived at the control in a procession. Al- Attiyah eventually arrived at the stage finish, just behind his Spanish rival to give the X-Raid team another excellent stage finish.

"The car is working really well," said Al-Attiyah. "It is a good test for us for the Dakar. I showed again that we are on the same pace as the VW and the Mitsubishi."

Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner started the day in sixth position, realistically out of reach of their team mates unless the recently-crowned FIA Middle East rally champion hit trouble. Jutta was sixth through PC1 and seventh at PC2, but she reached the stage finish in seventh to maintain sixth place in the overall results.

Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin began the penultimate section in seventh overall but dropped over two minutes to the pursuing Hiroshi Masuoka early in the selective and slipped behind the factory Mitsubishi driver at the end of the stage."

Today's stage was again delayed because of foggy conditions, but the entire route was used.

"Nasser showed today that for up until the last 100 kms of the stage he was the fastest driver and our car was more than a match for our rivals," said X-Raid Team Director Sven Quandt. "It has been very close today and I am more than happy with the team's performance. I did not expect to have three cars running so competitively inside the top eight at this point. So it proves that we are making progress."

Tomorrow marks the final two selective sections of the UAE Desert Challenge. The fifth shorter 122.45 km selective starts on the edge of the Al Dhafrah road and finishes 68 km south of the Al Ain truck road.

A 103.85 km liaison takes teams to the final 163.90 km competitive section north of the Al Ain highway. The selective finishes south of the Dubai Autodrome and a 44.85 km liaison takes crews on to the ceremonial finish at the Dubai International Marine Club in Mina Seyahi.

-credit: tak