2006 UAE Desert Challenge
Super Special stage:
Liaison; 5 km; Special 2 kms; Liaison 5 kms

Monterde, Kleinschmidt and Nobre set for desert showdown

The X-Raid Team held eighth, 13th, 14th and 15th positions, after the opening two kilometre timed Super Special stage of the UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, at Umm Suqueim, near Dubai, on Sunday afternoon.

Recently-crowned FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Alain Guehennec held eighth position overall in a BMW X3CC.

"I tested with the new engine in Morocco and was very impressed," said Al- Attiyah, who heads directly to the WRC Rally of New Zealand after the UAE Desert Challenge in his bid to add the P-WRC title to his third FIA Middle East rallying crown. "This is a short race and the only real strategy for me is to drive flat out in the desert and try and win from the front. This car is more than capable of winning. Tomorrow we will see. Today was not a day to take risks."

Former Dakar champion Jutta Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner completed the opening special in 3m 10.6s and 15th position.

"I have been very impressed with the car and my new team from the start," said Jutta, making her competition debut with the X-Raid operation. "Sven (Quandt) does not have the large resources of some of the other teams, but he is very efficient and organised and makes the most of what we have. I am confident that we can really surprise the other teams on this event. Watch out Mitsubishi and Volkswagen "

Brazilian driver Paulo Nobre and co-driver Luiz Palu and Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin were classified 13th and 14th in their pair of BMW X5s.

"I was second overall here last year, but this time is going to be much different," said Monterde. "Many top drivers will be fighting for the podium. It will not be easy."

The stage was won, somewhat surprisingly, by South African Marc Corbett, who benefited from a cleaner stage to record the fastest time of 2m 51.4s in a Nissan Pick-Up.

The Middle East's premier off-road event is the X-Raid team's last competitive test before embarking upon the Dakar Rally in January, although team members intend to carry out a further desert test in Dubai next weekend after the UAE Desert Challenge.

Monday marks the first of the traditional five legs of the UAE Desert Challenge, with teams leaving the Abu Dhabi start prior to tackling a 284.45 km selective section between Abu Dhabi and Moreeb. The varied stage skirts the Humeem Road and finishes a little over 118 km from the bivouac at Moreeb Hill.

-credit: tak