QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH FLIES THE X-RAID FLAG IN THE UAE

2006 UAE Desert Challenge
Leg 1: Abu Dhabi - Moreeb
Liaison 53.20 km, Special 284.45 km, Liaison 119.03 km - Total 456.68 km

Kleinschmidt loses 50 minutes with a minor water pipe problem

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec held the final podium position after the first proper desert stage of the UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, in the deserts of the Abu Dhabi emirate on Monday.

The X3 CC crew held third place, behind stage winner Carlos Sainz and this year's Dakar Rally winner Luc Alphand.

Former Dakar champion Jutta Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner lost their chance of winning the first selective section, when a water pipe came loose before the first passage control and the German lady lost 50 minutes in the incident.

Al-Attiyah and Guehennec held fourth position on the road at the first passage control and had moved up to third at the second PC, after moving ahead of the reigning Dakar champion Luc Alphand. They maintained their position to the finish.

"I am very happy with this position," said Al-Attiyah. "The stage was more about power than technique, but we are in contention and can build on this tomorrow."

Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin had begun the morning's selective section in 14th position and completed the timed section in 3h 10m 56s and an unofficial ninth place. Brazilian driver Paulo Nobre and co-driver Luiz Palu began the day in 13th place and they reached the finish in an unofficial 3h 18m 00s and 11th position.

"It was a good day and I am very pleased," said Team Director Sven Quandt. "Nasser and Jutta did a great job. Jutta had a problem, but she came back well. Now Nasser must try and stay with Carlos (Sainz) and Luc (Alphand) on the following stages"

Cars had been flagged away from the start at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday was the first of the desert selective sections in this year's UAE Desert Challenge. Teams leave the official start from the Emirates Palace Hotel on the Abu Dhabi Corniche on Monday morning and embark upon a 284.45 km timed desert section from Abu Dhabi, via Arjan and on to a finish near the Humeem Road.

-credit: tak