X-RAID GMBH'S PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET SET FOURTH FASTEST TIME INTO SAN RAFAEL * Chicherit loses over 90 minutes repairing broken suspension * X-raid's Novitskiy finishes 11th on stage into San Rafael * Spain's Carlos Sainz extends his overall...
X-RAID GMBH'S PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET SET FOURTH FASTEST TIME INTO SAN RAFAEL
* Chicherit loses over 90 minutes repairing broken suspension
* X-raid's Novitskiy finishes 11th on stage into San Rafael
* Spain's Carlos Sainz extends his overall lead to 5m 20s
SAN RAFAEL (Argentina): Team X-raid GmbH's Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret lost a few crucial minutes on the closing kilometres of the 12th stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally between San Juan and San Rafael in Argentina on Thursday.
But the French duo still set the fourth fastest time in their BMW X3 CC to consolidate a similar position in the overall classification. "We definitely had no chance on this stage," admitted Peterhansel. "It was in the programme in last year's Dakar, run in reverse, and that was where we retired. About 30km from the end of the special we had a minor engine problem and had to finish the stage at around 30km/h. This cost us the time."
Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thorner began the stage from the front of the car field, but lost over one and a half hours replacing a damaged front right suspension arm and eventually finished the stage 1h 39m 10s behind Sainz. They retain fifth in the overall rankings, although Portugal's Carlos Sousa was able to close to within 10m 35s of the second Trebur-built BMW X3 CC.
Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and German co-driver Andreas Schulz had been running as high as third through the first checkpoint. They registered the 11th fastest time to maintain 11th in the general classification, but the pair are coming under increasing pressure from Nicolas Misslin heading into the final two stages.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz began the day with an outright lead of 4m 28s over his Qatari team mate Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his second stage win of the campaign saw that advantage grow to 5m 20s.
Today's stage featured a 130km tarmac neutralised section through a listed natural heritage site between 204km and 334km and a total competitive distance of 346km. Fifty-nine cars started the section in soaring temperatures and Novitskiy held third position for the X-raid team through 21km.
Peterhansel shadowed Sainz through the 119km control, but Novitskiy dropped 14 minutes and Chicherit broke a front right suspension arm on his BMW X3 CC after 63km and lost 89 minutes affecting emergency repairs. The Frenchman managed to retain fifth position in the virtual overall classification.
Sainz maintained his overall advantage after 157km, as Peterhansel and Novitskiy settled into second and 10th positions on the special heading into the last section before the neutralisation zone. Sainz managed to fend off the X-raid team's challenge to 204km, as the crews took to the tarmac to avoid the protected area of historical heritage.
The special entered a sandy section at 334km and Frenchman Nicolas Misslin surprised the regulars by holding the virtual stage lead. Peterhansel and Novitskiy were fifth and eighth and Chicherit was back on the pace but running over 90 minutes behind the leaders. Stephane began one of his customary charges over the next kilometres and closed to within 2m 27s of stage leader Sainz through 363km.
The ASO moved the finish to the 470km point to enable stage finish proceedings to take place away from a massive crowd that had gathered at the 476km point. Sainz duly hung to take the stage win from Al-Attiyah, but Peterhansel was delayed with minor engine problems near the end and slipped to fourth, 10m 49s behind the Spaniard.
Tomorrow (Friday) is the penultimate competitive day of the 2010 Dakar Rally between San Rafael and Santa Rosa de la Pampa in Argentina. The format offers a special stage of 368km and two liaison sections of 76km and 281km in a total distance of 725km. The special includes a pass through the tricky Nihuil dunes at the start and faster tracks to the finish.
The second high speed liaison crosses the pampas grasslands to Santa Rosa. The city is the capital of La Pampa Province in the Argentina Pampas region and lies on the shore of the Don Tomas Lagoon.