PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET LOSE VALUABLE MINUTES WITH TYRE AND DUST WOES ON SEVENTH DAKAR STAGE INTO ANTOFAGASTA
- New Mini All4 Racing sidelined by freak testing accident
- Qatar's Al-Attiyah takes stage win to close gap on Sainz
- X-raid's Terranova rolls out of fourth place after PC3
- Holowczyc maintains fifth; Dos Santos seventh fastest
ANTOFAGASTA (Chile): The Monster Energy X-raid team crew of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret lost valuable minutes in their quest to catch Carlos Sainz and Nasser Saleh Al- Attiyah on the shortened seventh special stage between Arica and Antofagasta in northern Chile on Sunday.
The French pair began the special fifth on the road, but suffered tyre problems before the first passage control and were never able to make up the time over the remaining kilometres. Al- Attiyah duly clinched his second stage win of the race so far and reduced Sainz's overall lead to 1m 22s. Peterhansel now trails the leader by 21m 11s.
"At the start of the stage one of the Volkswagens must have had a problem because we ended up in its dust," said Peterhansel. "It was hard to drive quickly because of the dust, because there was no wind. We let them pull ahead and then, after 15km, we got a flat tyre. That was just what we needed to lose confidence for the rest of the stage. I didn't have the right speed to drive through this kind of fesh-fesh.
"Minutes add up. It's my fault. I drove too fast on this terrain. The one thing we wanted at the start was the overall victory and that seems to be getting out of reach, for sure."
Guerlain Chicherit and Michel Perin were unable to continue this morning, after the new Mini All4 Racing sustained damage in a freak testing accident, near the Arica bivouac, on Saturday evening.
Chicherit had been lying ninth in the general classification and had been checking the car with chief mechanic Frank Trobs after the scheduled rest day rebuild. On the return to the bivouac from the brief test -- where everything was shown to be working normally - Chicherit clipped a ridge of ground and flipped the car into a series of three rolls, which badly damaged the body panels on the Mini.
Team director Sven Quandt took the immediate decision not to rebuild the car overnight and Chicherit and the new Mini All4 Racing were withdrawn from the event.
"If this had happened during the race then it would have been more acceptable," said a bitterly disappointed team director Sven Quandt. "But this accident happened on a roll-out test after the car had just been completely rebuilt. Everything was fine. Guerlain had just confirmed this to the mechanic who was in the car. Guerlain decided he wanted to do another 25km, which is normally not necessary and then he came over a crest and we know what happened next.
"There was a clear understanding between Guerlain and us that the car has to go to Buenos Aires, no matter what the position. Even if it was slow, I did not care. He knew that and we had a meeting again in Arica about this.
"The car is very strong. There is nothing integral on the body that is damaged, but this is a disappointing setback for what is a very exciting project. We knew the car was fast and reliable."
Orlando Terranova and Filipe Palmeiro were holding a fine fourth place on the day's special and were running as the fastest X-raid crew when they rolled their BMW X3 CC after the third passage control. The car was damaged in the accident and the Argentinean driver was transported to the end of the stage by helicopter, while Palmeiro waited with the vehicle in the desert.
Krzysztof Holowczyc and Jean-Marc Fortin continue to hold fifth in the overall classification, despite losing time on the day's stage with punctures. They still completed the special in fifth place and remain well clear of sixth-placed American Marc Miller in the overall rankings.
Ricardo Leal Dos Santos and Paulo Fiщza were aiming to close in on the top 10 in their Monster Energy-backed BMW X3 CC on the day's stage, but they had little idea that this would be as a result of the demise of two of their BMW colleagues. Dos Santos set the seventh fastest time and now holds ninth in the general classification.
Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt began the day in 27th overall and 45th on the road. They were running in 25th position through the first passage control in the KS Tools-backed BMW X3 CC and down in 30th at PC2 and 29th at PC3. The Germans eventually finished the special in 26th place.
Andrea Mayer, Thomas Baumann and Phillip Beier took advantage of much-needed rest at the Arica rest day and began the day's special at 10.32hrs, running as the 38th truck on the road. They had moved up to 29th by the first PC.
"Driving the truck at the back of the field means it is very difficult to know what your progress is," admitted Mayer. "You have a good run, then you stop and then you are passed again by a truck that has had delays. It's a bit like the tortoise and the hare situation. I was feeling a little down after the delays into Arica, but then I looked at the position of our truck in relation to some of our rivals and it was not too bad at all."
Today's special stage started 208km along the coast from Arica towards Iquique and was split into two sections by a neutralisation route of 151km. The special began at over 1,100 metres above sea level and included four passage controls at the 91km, 176km, 192km and 593km points in a route of 611km, including the asphalt neutralisation.
The stage included a series of treacherous dune crossings and a wide range of rocky, stony and sandy surfaces, including a spectacular dune crossing at the finish into the bivouac near Antofagasta. But race officials decided to cancel the second section on safety grounds for competitors running at the rear of the field and the special was, therefore, reduced to just 252km.
Al-Attiyah edged in front from the start of the special and maintained his lead over Sainz and De Villiers, but Peterhansel had dropped 5m 42s by the first passage control after 91km because of a puncture and running in a rival's dust but was still in a virtual seventh on the stage. He remained 6m 19s behind the Qatari at PC2 after a series of dune crossings, although he had made up two positions on the special.
By PC3, Al-Attiyah was still 1m 10s in front of his Spanish team-mate and Peterhansel was 6m 40s adrift. Terranova was enjoying a fine stage in his X-raid BMW X3 CC and was classified in fifth at PC1 and fourth through the subsequent two PCs. Peterhansel and Holowczyc managed to reach the finish in fourth and fifth positions, but Terranova rolled before the finish and undid all the morning's hard work.
Antofagasta is known in Chile as the 'Pearl of the North'. The city suffered from earthquake damage in 1991 and 1995, but an economic boom -- led by vibrant mining activity and surging demand from the Far East -- has made it one of the fastest growing in South America. The Tropic of Capricorn passes through the north of the city.
Tomorrow (Monday) the route continues its southerly path down Chile's Pacific coast to Copiapo. Treacherous navigation, altitude and a series of tricky dunes will form part of the gruelling 508km special stage, which will finish in the Atacama bivouac, near to where 33 miners were rescued in a much-publicised rescue bid at the San Jose gold and copper mine last autumn.
The route crosses the Paposa National Reserve, before the competitive action begins near to PN Pan de Azucar and is split by seven passage controls.