QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH TAKES SEVENTH ON STAGE TO HOLD SEVENTH OVERALL IN DAKAR RALLY STANDINGS Frenchman Chicherit holds 14th place; South African Cox in 15th OUARZAZATE (Morocco): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain ...
QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH TAKES SEVENTH ON STAGE TO HOLD SEVENTH OVERALL IN DAKAR RALLY STANDINGS
Frenchman Chicherit holds 14th place; South African Cox in 15th
OUARZAZATE (Morocco): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec continued their steady climb up the leaderboard of the 2006 Dakar Rally and now hold seventh place in the overall standings. But it could have been so much better for the Qatari driver.
Al-Attiyah had been the fastest of all the teams through the first passage control, with the Qatari holding a 17-second advantage over Frenchman Bruno Saby. He extended his advantage into PC2, beating former WRC champion Carlos Sainz by 54 seconds and yesterday's stage winner Jean-Louis Schlesser by over 10 minutes. He was eventually slowed near the finish of the stage with two flat tyres and slipped to seventh fastest to move up to seventh overall.
"It was so frustrating on Monday," said Al-Attiyah. "I was not able to push too hard because of the dust and then we had this problem with the jack working its way loose and I had ro slow down. It meant that I lost some time at the end of the stage and that is why I started so far down today. This morning was perfect - a beautiful stage for me and I decided to have a small attack - no risks just smooth driving.
Now I feel confident. The car feels fantastic. I am very happy and have a good feeling about tomorrow."
Spaniard Carlos Sainz is now the overall leader of the Dakar Rally after the fourth stage and the second in Morocco. He regained the lead after taking his third fastest time. Volkswagens hold three of the first four places.
Promising French youngster Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the day in 15th position and were up to 13th through the first passage control. The Frenchman had been 49th overall in last year's Dakar, but was well on his way to a top finish this year. He completed the second Moroccan stage in 12th place.
South African Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford began the day in 18th place and were running 16th through the first passage control.
They eventually reached the finish of the special in 13th and now hold 15th overall.
"It was a case of just trying to avoid the dust and the motorcycles for the second successive day," said Cox. "It is not that easy to find a rhythm when you have dust and slower bikes, but I am pleased with my performance and the car is working perfectly."
Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Italian co-driver Tiziano Siviero had begun to climb the leaderboard after starting cautiously in Europe.
They were 31st overall at the start of the stage between Er Rachidia and Ouarzazate, despite the Castellon driver admitting to feeling under the weather for a couple of days. He held 25th place at the first passage control into Ouarzazate, but was delayed on the latter sections of the stage.
"Today we proved that the new BMW X3 has the pace and potential to match and beat the Volkswagens and Mitsubishis and I am delighted with that," said Team Director Sven Quandt. "Now I am confident that we can make even more progress. Nasser had a couple of punctures, but his pace and commitment have been impressive from the start."
Major support for the X-Raid team comes from Corona Extra and Magna Steyr.
This evening teams will camp at the garrison city of Ouazazate, the 'Gateway to the Desert'. The city is strategically placed as a trading link between Marrakech and Agadir and dates back to 1928. It overlooks the nearby valley of the Draa and Valley of the Dades.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) teams will tackle a 350 kms special stage, sandwiched by a 187 kms liaison section south from Ouarzazate and a tiring 282 kms liaison to the Atlantic coastal settlement of Tan Tan.
The technical stage begins at Foum-Zguid and finishes south of Tafraoute.