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X-RAID'S SAILS CAPITAL RACING TEAM ALL SET FOR DAKAR RALLY SHOWDOWN X-raid announces exciting new Total sponsorship deal Al-Attiyah and Chicherit aim for top three and lead X-raid's bid BUENOS AIRES (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing...

X-RAID'S SAILS CAPITAL RACING TEAM ALL SET FOR DAKAR RALLY SHOWDOWN

X-raid announces exciting new Total sponsorship deal
Al-Attiyah and Chicherit aim for top three and lead X-raid's bid

BUENOS AIRES (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team safely passed scrutineering and documentation checks at La Rural convention centre in Buenos Aires on New Year's Eve (December 31st), before the team's six BMW X3 CCs head into the first stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally on Saturday, January 3rd. X-raid also took the opportunity to announce an exciting sponsorship deal with French oil giant Total for the forthcoming Dakar Rally. The deal is initially for the Dakar, with a view to extending into the new cross-country rallying season. "Each of the three major teams (Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and X-raid) have new cars and this will be the first time that they have met in race competition," said team director Sven Quandt. "It will be very interesting to see what develops over the first few days, where I am sure that Robbie Gordon will also be very fast.

"The start of the rally has also coincided with the exciting news that we have agreed a sponsorship deal with Total for the Dakar," added Quandt. It is a major boost to our Dakar bid to announce this close association with the world-leading French oil company and we hope that this will be the start of a successful new partnership."

"We are delighted to announce this new association with X-raid for the 2009 Dakar Rally, which starts and finishes in Argentina for the first time in its 31-year history," said Diego Tricci, Director of Marketing, Total Argentina SA. "It is also an opportunity for us to support a local driver (Orlando Terranova) and begin this new association with X-raid."

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will drive one of the two latest-specification BMW X3 CCs in X-raid's armoury. Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn drives the second model, because Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit felt more confident after around 5,000km at the wheel of his older specification car.

Al-Attiyah has been jogging around the scenic boulevards and wide avenues of central Buenos Aires before breakfast this week in a bid to prepare himself fully for the start of the world's most difficult off-road rally.

He also visited the state-of-the-art ASPIRE sport's academy in Doha and slept in a simulated altitude environment used by some of the region's leading athletes, before making his way to South America.

"I am totally ready, focused and raring to go," enthused the defending FIA World Cup and Baja champion. "I feel at the top of my fitness, but know that this will be a fantastic fight between the leading drivers."

Chicherit echoes Al-Attiyah's sentiments and admitted to feeling more relaxed than usual in the build up to a major rally. "I drove around 5,000km with my older X3 and only about 30km with the new one and admitted that I felt more confident with a car where I knew the handling and the performance. For the first two or three days I intend to take it a little easy and preserve the car. I live at Tignes in France so I, personally, should suffer no problems from the altitude next week.

"There is no point going all out too early and making a mistake," added the 30-year-old. "I honestly feel that I can finish inside the top three on this rally. I have won a stage in the past and taken a pair of second places, but stage wins are not important for me this time. I want to finish on the podium."

The Dutch duo of Peter van Merksteijn and Rene Kuipers have also been getting to know members of the X-raid team, which they have both joined for the first time. "This is the start of an exciting new challenge," admitted van Merksteijn.

X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy is also confident that he can achieve a good finish on this occasion, after setting several competitive times in the UAE Desert Challenge. "The mechanics have spent a lot of time getting my car ready for this rally over the last couple of days and I want to pay them back with an excellent result."

Argentina's Orlando Terranova is upbeat about his chances of success on his home event. "Obviously it is a dream for me to be competing with a top professional team in my native Argentina on the world's most famous off-road rally," enthused Terranova. "I have driven many kilometres with the BMW X3 and am sure that I can achieve a good finish in front of home crowds."

Terranova's French co-driver Alain Guehennec is the most experienced Dakar competitor in the entire X-raid team. He is competing in his 18th Dakar and will be bidding for a 13th finish. "I have a good record on this event and hope that 'Orly' and I can keep my run going with a good finish."

A provisional 230 bikes, 30 quads, 188 cars and 82 trucks from 49 countries will take part in the 31st Dakar Rally, although final pre-event formalities do not finish until Thursday evening, with X-raid's main rivals passing through scrutineering on New Year's Day.

The rally gets underway from the Argentine capital on Saturday January 3rd, with a short liaison into a 371km 'pampas'-style special stage in the direction of Santa Rosa de la Pampa, although all crews will take part in a ceremonial start in downtown Buenos Aires on Friday evening (January 2nd).

The first stage will start at San Saladillo and finish at Trenque Lauquen, although there will be three passage controls en route to the capital of the La Pampa province, which lies on the shore of the Don Tomas Lagoon.

Saturday's opening stage will be followed by specials across remote Argentinean agricultural land and barren wasteland in Patagonia, taking in overnight stops at Puerto Madryn, Jacobacci, Neuquen and San Rafael, over the next four days.

The final stage takes teams back to Buenos Aires on Saturday, January 17th for the ceremonial finish after 5,652 competitive kilometres in a total route of 9,574km.

-credit: bmw x-raid

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Series DAKAR