SECOND STAGE WIN PUSHES X-RAID'S AL-ATTIYAH BACK UP TO SECOND OVERALL IN DAKAR RALLY * X-raid's Terranova moves up to seventh overall * X-raid's BMW X3 CCs survive rigours of opening three days INGENIERO JACOBACCI (Argentina): X-raid's Sails...
SECOND STAGE WIN PUSHES X-RAID'S AL-ATTIYAH BACK UP TO SECOND OVERALL IN DAKAR RALLY
* X-raid's Terranova moves up to seventh overall
* X-raid's BMW X3 CCs survive rigours of opening three days
INGENIERO JACOBACCI (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team rebounded from Sunday's small setback to again set the fastest time in the third, albeit shortened, 550km varied gravel stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally across Patagonia between Puerto Madryn and Ingeniero Jacobacci on Monday.
Day one leaders, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Tina Thorner, started the stage in ninth position on the road in their BMW X3 CC and set the fastest time -- their second in three days -- to move up the leader board from fourth to second overall.
Cooler and windier conditions greeted crews as they headed east across the vast and remote Patagonian scrublands at the start of the longest special stage of the event so far.Cooler and windier conditions greeted crews as they headed east across the vast and remote Patagonian scrublands at the start of the longest special stage of the event so far.
But the changing conditions failed to prevent Al-Attiyah setting the early pace in the opening 40km, although Germany's Dieter Depping, Spain's Carlos Sainz and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel were in close contention.
The Qatari had openly admitted that he was disappointed to lose the overall lead on day two because of a navigational error and he maintained his composure and an excellent pace to hold the stage lead through 304km. He had a 2m 36s advantage over South African Giniel de Villiers, with Depping, Sainz, Peterhansel and Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma in hot pursuit.
The stage had been shortened from 616km to 550km by event officials, but Al-Attiyah maintained his lead through PC2 at 496km, with Sainz moving up to second position, ahead of Depping, De Villiers, Peterhansel and Roma. Despite losing a little time towards the end of the section to overall leader Sainz, Al-Attiyah claimed a second stage win in three days.
"We decided to push a little bit for the first 300km," said Al-Attiyah. "We passed four cars and e caught 'Nani' (Roma) and then had a flat tyre. We stopped to change the wheel. There was one bike in front of us and I had to swerve off the track and then we hit a rock and had the puncture. But everything else is okay. I have no problem starting first tomorrow."
"I must say I am quite surprised to be in this position," said a delighted team director Sven Quandt. "I know that Nasser is very good, the car is excellent and he had a good starting position this morning. But we are showing again that we are a serious threat to win this race."
Local hero Orlando Terranova and Frenchman Alain Guehennec began the stage ahead of Al-Attiyah and this enabled the Qatari to pass if necessary. Terranova drove a sensible stage to claim seventh position, although he lost a couple of minutes near the end of the special.
"I am very happy to be in this position after three days," said Terranova. "I think that the race will start for real tomorrow. We have two difficult stages to come with a lot of sand. The race will start to get complicated for us and the support crews. I would like to push a little more before the rest day and then see our position then."
Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn and Belgian co-driver Eddy Chevallier began the day from 13th overall. They set the 12th fastest time and moved up to a similar place in the general classification. Rene Kuipers claimed 23rd position and now holds a provisional 19th overall.
The French duo of Guerlain Chicherit and Matthieu Baumel put their opening day woes behind them to set the ninth fastest time, although they are still a long way behind the leaders.
X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and Oleg Tyupenkin were 14th on the road and 12th overall heading out of Puerto Madryn, but were delayed in the stage as we closed for press.
Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast 24 hours' before. The town was formerly known as Nahuel Niyeo, but renamed in 1926 after the engineer who built the railway that now links the town with the outside world and was also the location for the overnight bivouac.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the fourth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally between Ingeniero Jacobacci and Neuquen, the 459km special starting just four kilometres from the bivouac and featuring numerous rocky and sandy sections and several wadis.
The route passes through the Sierra Mesanlyes and meanders to the north-east of the Negro river to finish near the renowned Valley of the Dinosaurs in a protected geological area dating back to the Cretaceous Period.
The final 25km liaison takes teams to the overnight halt near the confluence of the Limay and Neuquen rivers. Neuquen has a strong agricultural background, is the capital city of the province of the same name and is the largest city in Patagonia.