X-RAID TEAMS BATTLE THROUGH THE MAURITANIAN DUNES INTO NOUAKCHOTT NOUAKCHOTT (Mauritania): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec began the stage between Atar and the rest halt in Nouakchott in 65th position in the...
X-RAID TEAMS BATTLE THROUGH THE MAURITANIAN DUNES INTO NOUAKCHOTT
NOUAKCHOTT (Mauritania): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec began the stage between Atar and the rest halt in Nouakchott in 65th position in the overall standings. They had suffered a persistent clutch problem in the sand dunes into Atar and reached the decision that it was advisable to return to the bivouac and make repairs, rather than run the risk of getting stuck in the last of the dunes and camel grass.
The decision cost the crew two hours in road penalties for missing the second passage control, but Al-Attiyah was raring to go at the start this morning. The advantage was that they were one of the first pairings to reach the stage finish, although they were classified 72nd on the stage and began Saturday's special in 65th overall. Despite having to pass several slower cars the Qatari climbed to 10th fastest at PC1, behind Portugal's Carlos Sousa and was negotiating the sand dunes en route to Nouakchott at 18.00 hrs CET.
"I am just waiting for a good clean run and then I am confident that I have the pace to take a first stage win," said Al-Attiyah. "Every time we seem to be putting in a great performance there is a tiny little problem which costs us time. Yesterday was the clutch. There was no way we could make it to Atar in the stage and we decided to take a penalty."
Today's stage was again won by Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi, with the Mitsubishi Motors Team of Stephane Peterhansel and Luc Alphand leading the way into Nouakchott to extend their overall lead over South Africa's Giniel de Villiers in third place. They difference between the two cars is a mere 32 seconds, although a mere eight cars had reached the stage finish at 18.00 hrs CET.
South African Off-Road champion Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford began the day's stage in 13th overall in teir BMW X3CC after completing the stage into Atar in 27th position. But they lost over 30 minutes in the sand before PC1 and reached the control in just under three hours. They were en route to Nouakchott at 18.30 hrs CET.
"The last two days have been my first real specials in a car in the sand dunes," said Cox. "I have tackled over 4,000 kms of off-road racing in South Africa, but this is totally different and a new challenge to racing on a bike."
Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel were continuing their successful debut in the X-Raid Team and began the day in 10th overall after setting the 12th fastest time into Atar. They lost over 30 minutes before the first passage control and were 37 seconds slower than team mate Cox to PC1.
Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Italian co-driver Tiziano Siviero eventually arrived at the Atar bivouac in 28th position on the road and began the stage into the Nouakchott rest day in 30th overall. But they used all their previous Dakar experience on the gruelling passage of the dunes into the rest day and were up to 13th through the sand to PC1 and were progressing towards Nouakchott at 18.00 hrs CET.
Major support for the X-Raid team comes from Corona Extra and Magna Steyr.
Sunday marks the official rest day for competitors in this year's Dakar Rally. While mechanics use the day to refettle battle-worn cars, drivers and co-drivers use the time for well-earned rest and mix with large numbers of VIPs and members of the media who are flown in to visit the Dakar and absorb the ambiance of the event.