Dakar: BMW X-raid stage one report

X-RAID TEAM BEGINS DAKAR RALLY CAMPAIGN IN SIXTH AND NINTH PLACES * Spaniard Monterde and Brazilian Nobre safely through opening test * Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt loses time with a loose battery cable * Early Dakar Rally lead...

X-RAID TEAM BEGINS DAKAR RALLY CAMPAIGN IN SIXTH AND NINTH PLACES

*       Spaniard Monterde and Brazilian Nobre safely through opening test

* Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt loses time with a loose battery cable
* Early Dakar Rally lead for Sousa and Schulz in a VW

PORTIMAO, Portugal - The X-Raid Team held sixth and ninth positions after the opening timed 117km special stage of the 29th Dakar Rally between Lisbon and Portimao in southern Portugal on Saturday.

The treacherous stage crossed numerous hilly tracks and farmland roads and steered teams towards the Algarve and the first overnight halt of this year's shortened Dakar Rally.

Former world extreme skiing champion Guerlain Chcherit teamed up with Matthieu Baumel to hold an excellent sixth position through the opening Portuguese stage and lead the non-Volkswagen contingent, which was headed by Carlos Sousa, Giniel de Villiers and Carlos Sainz.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, fresh from taking victory in last year's FIA Middle East and P-WRC World Championships, held ninth place with French co-driver Alain Guehennec in his BMW X3CC.

Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner lost time in the opening stage when a battery cable came off their BMW X3CC and they had to stop for a motorcycle. Chicherit briefly stopped to lend assistance, but the 2001 winner was quickly on her way again without major delays and only dropped 25 minutes to the leading pack.

"Jutta was forced to stop with an electrical problem, but otherwise I am very pleased with the start we have made to the race in difficult conditions," said X-Raid Team Director Sven Quandt. "It was never going to be easy to push hard on this stage. There was mud everywhere and many bikes. It was a case of being very careful and we have done that."

Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin were unofficially classified 19th at 13.30 hrs, while Brazilian team mate Paulo Nobre and co-driver were just ahead of the Spaniard.

Major support for the X-Raid team comes from new Hessen-based sponsor TrekStor, Magna Steyr, BMW Motoren GmbH, Reiger, BF Goodrich, MAN, Sabelt and BBS.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the second and final European stage of the Dakar Rally, with crews set to tackle an extended 67km WRC-style special stage in Portugal after a 15km run out from the morning's Parc Ferme in Portimao.

The route then heads in an easterly direction towards the Spanish frontier and a 463km liaison will take the X-Raid team to Malaga via Seville and pre-boarding formalities before the sea crossing to Africa on Sunday evening.

Over the course of 15 timed special stages between today and Sunday, January 21st, the Dakar Rally will cross a total route of 7,915km, of which 4,309km will be competitive. African competitive action starts on Monday morning.

-credit: bmw x-raid

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Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Carlos Sousa , Giniel de Villiers , Tina Thorner , Jean-Marie Lurquin , Jose Luis Monterde , Alain Guehennec , Matthieu Baumel