QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH FOCUSES ON MAJOR PUSH UP DAKAR RALLY LEADERBOARD IN SECOND WEEK * Al-Attiyah leads X-Raid team challenge in seventh at Atar rest day * Monterde, Kleinschmidt and Nobre head towards Tichit in 10th, 31st and 57th ATAR, ...
QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH FOCUSES ON MAJOR PUSH UP DAKAR RALLY LEADERBOARD IN SECOND WEEK
* Al-Attiyah leads X-Raid team challenge in seventh at Atar rest day
* Monterde, Kleinschmidt and Nobre head towards Tichit in 10th, 31st and 57th
ATAR, Mauritania -- The X-Raid Team heads into the second week of the 29th Dakar Rally without their lead driver, after Guerlain Chicherit crashed his BMW X3CC out of sixth position on the high-speed stage into Zouerat.
But Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec have started to pick up their pace and make a move up the leaderboard for the Trebur-based team in a second BMW X3CC.
Al-Attiyah suffered a few niggling problems on the early stages, but the defending FIA P-WRC Champion was fifth fastest into the Atar rest day on Friday and has now moved up to seventh overall, within striking distance of Jean-Louis Schlesser and Hiroshi Masuoka.
The Doha-based driver has vast experience in the desert and should be able to push his way into the top three or four this week provided that he can maintain the concentration that has already taken him to numerous Middle East rally victories in an ever-improving career.
"It was a great shame for Guerlain to retire after the crash, but that is racing," said Al-Attiyah. "I had a similar accident two years ago. Now I must knuckle down and do my best for the X-Raid team. Last year I had retired at this point, so I am in a better position and things seem to be coming together at the right time."
Spaniard José-Luis Monterde and Jean-Marie Lurquin held 10th overall at the rest day, after finishing the special stage into Atar in 15th position. The Spaniard is a determined and patient driver and has climbed into the top 10 through careful and resilient driving.
German Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner eventually completed the special stage into Atar in 45th position after a driveshaft problem and they hold 31st overall at the 'half-way' point of the rally. "It has been quite an adventure so far, but we are not so far down the leaderboard, despite many delays. All I can do now is just keep plugging away and drive as hard as I can without taking any risks."
Brazilian Paulo Nobre and co-driver Filipe Palmeiro finished the second Mauritanian special stage in 83rd position and duly undid some of the good work they had put into a gradual move up the leaderboard over the last few days. Nobre heads into the Tichit stage on Sunday morning lying 57th overall.
"It has certainly been a first week full of dramas and highs and lows," said X-Raid Team Director Sven Quandt. "But that is the nature of the Dakar. We know the car is competitive. We have proved that with our stage times this week. We just need a little bit of good luck and maybe we can spring a surprise or two between Atar and Dakar next Sunday."
Major support for the X-Raid team comes from Hessen-based sponsor TrekStor, Magna Steyr, BMW Motoren GmbH, Reiger, BF Goodrich, MAN, Sabelt, BBS and KS-Tools.
Sunday, January 14th could well be the first of three of the most difficult sections of this year's Dakar. A 35km liaison steers crews to the start of the longest stage of the entire rally -- a daunting 589km section across the Mauritanian wastelands, via Tidjikja and on to a finish two kilometres from the Tichit oasis.
Service vehicles are not allowed into the Tichit bivouac on this first and only Marathon section of the 29th Dakar Rally and X-Raid drivers will need to work on the cars themselves if they have problems.
-credit: bmw x-raid