X-RAID RUSSIA'S NOVITSKIY SETS SECOND FASTEST TIME ON FINAL DAKAR STAGE * X-raid's Novitskiy and Chicherit confirm eighth and ninth overall * Kuipers incurs 10-hours of delayed penalties and slips to 18th/li> BUENOS AIRES (Argentina): X-raid's...
X-RAID RUSSIA'S NOVITSKIY SETS SECOND FASTEST TIME ON FINAL DAKAR STAGE
* X-raid's Novitskiy and Chicherit confirm eighth and ninth overall
* Kuipers incurs 10-hours of delayed penalties and slips to 18th/li>
BUENOS AIRES (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team confirmed a second and fifth fastest time and two cars inside the final top 10, after the 14th special stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally between Cordoba and Buenos Aires on Saturday.
This was arguably the most challenging and unpredictable event in the notorious 31-year history of the world's most famous cross-country rally. Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit capped a dramatic two weeks for the Trebur-based team with the fifth-quickest time in his BMW X3 CC after leading the stage at the first PC. It was an enjoyable end to two topsy-turvy weeks for Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel, who celebrated his 33rd birthday today.
The result was sufficient for Chicherit to confirm ninth overall, with X-raid Russia team mate Leonid Novitskiy setting the second fastest time over the final 227km special to maintain an excellent eighth in the final rankings.
The final day of a maiden Dakar Rally was tarnished somewhat for Dutchman Rene Kuipers and his Portuguese co-driver Filipe Palmiero. Kuipers had performed superbly well on his Dakar debut, but the ASO imposed a further 10 hours' of time penalties on several crews who missed the final section of the stage into La Rioja at the Cordoba bivouac. The Dutchman duly lost his 10th place and finished 18th, despite setting an excellent seventh quickest time on the final stage.
Three of X-raid's six BMW X3 CCs retired: Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner had been the revelation of the opening stages for the X-raid team and set two fastest stage times and held the overall lead, before missing several crucial way-points in a series of sand dunes. They were duly withdrawn from the race before teams crossed the Andes into Chile last week.
Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn and Belgian co-driver Eddy Chevallier were sidelined by a fire in a stage, but Argentina's Orlando Terranova and French co-driver Alain Guehennec were running inside the top 10 before leaving the stage and dropping into a small ravine, where a concentrated impact damaged the car's safety cage and they were withdrawn.
"Obviously it was disappointing for Rene to be given those extra time penalties yesterday but we knew that they could be coming," said team director Sven Quandt. ""Leonid and Guerlain finished well inside the top 10 and Nasser showed that he and the car have the potential to win the race.
"None of our cars retired because of a mechanical breakdown, even though this was one of the toughest Dakars ever. We could tell from the support for the event locally that it has been a big success and we hope to come back again in the future to try and win."
South African Giniel de Villiers set the fastest time on the final stage to confirm his first Dakar win, with an 8m 59s winning margin over American Mark Miller.
From the original 530 starters, 129 bikes and quads, 92 cars and 55 trucks were permitted to start the final stage into Buenos Aires, but the ASO had been busy imposing further time penalties on some crews overnight, as the general consistency of the results remained volatile until the final day.
There will be no competitive action tomorrow (Saturday), but surviving crews will take part in the much-vaunted ceremonial finish in downtown Buenos Aires. Over half a million people attended the ceremonial start on Friday, January 2nd and an even greater number are anticipated at the finish, such has been the interest shown by the local population in this year's Dakar Rally.