X-RAID'S CHICHERIT AND THORNER TAKE STUNNING STAGE WIN INTO SAN JUAN * Peterhansel and Cottret maintain fourth into San Juan * X-raid's Novitskiy seals 11th to maintain same position * Al-Attiyah reduces Sainz's overall lead to 4m 28s SAN JUAN...
X-RAID'S CHICHERIT AND THORNER TAKE STUNNING STAGE WIN INTO SAN JUAN
* Peterhansel and Cottret maintain fourth into San Juan
* X-raid's Novitskiy seals 11th to maintain same position
* Al-Attiyah reduces Sainz's overall lead to 4m 28s
SAN JUAN (Argentina): Team X-raid GmbH's Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thorner produced a stunning performance to take the fastest time on the 11th stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally between Santiago in Chile and San Juan in Argentina on Wednesday afternoon.
The BMW X3 CC crew began the special fifth on the road and in a similar position in the overall standings and managed to finish 30 seconds in front of Argentina's Orlando Terranova to consolidate their position in the main rankings.
The success marked a first stage win for the reigning FIA World Cup champions on this Dakar and Chicherit's second ever -- he and co-driver Matthieu Baumel won the special between Tambacounda and Dakar in 2006.
"The stage was short and I was given the go-ahead to push as long as I kept the car on the road," said Chicherit. "So I said to Tina that the stage was for us. I attacked from the start, but we had trouble getting past Nasser (Al-Attiyah). This year I have really found my strengths and my weaknesses and I am going to work on coming back stronger than ever next time."
Team mates Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret finished the stage in sixth place after losing several minutes before the 190km point, although the French pair maintain fourth in the overall standings in their Trebur-built BMW X3 CC.
Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and German co-driver Andreas Schulz set the 11th fastest time and retain a similar position in the overall rankings.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz maintained the overall lead in the event, but that advantage had been whittled down to just 4m 28s by Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah heading into the final three stages before the ceremonial finish in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
"It is really pleasing for Guerlain, Tina and the team that they have the stage win today," enthused a delighted X-raid team director Sven Quandt. "He had a whole stage without problems and showed what he and the car are capable of."
Today's stage began after the Dakar caravan had crossed the Andes mountain range, frontier formalities and headed into Uspallata in the foothills on the Argentine side of the border.
One hundred and ninety-eight teams, including 60 cars, began the special and Chicherit and Peterhansel were at the front of the field in terms of stage times through the checkpoint at 51km. Novitskiy held 13th.
The special then crossed a section of sand en route to the control at 102km and Peterhansel managed to sneak in front of his team mate by the slenderest of margins, as the Team X-raid GmbH duo controlled proceedings on the stage. Chicherit duly returned the favour and edged in front again through 148km over stony terrain.
Chicherit was firmly on course for the first stage win of this Dakar campaign after 190km. Peterhansel lost a little time and the Frenchman was out on his own at the head of the timings, with Terranova and South African Giniel de Villiers his closest challengers heading into the last 30km and the finish on the outskirts of San Juan. Novitskiy had moved up to 11th on the stage and held on to that position into the finish.
Tomorrow (Thursday) the route heads between the towns of San Juan and San Rafael, with a 23km liaison guiding crews to the start of a punishing 476km special stage. It is the longest day of the event as well, because tired crews will then have to tackle a 297km liaison to the overnight halt.
The section will pass via a protected natural site near the Valley of the Dinosaurs, but the special will be varied, offering river crossings, canyons, fast piste and some large sandy areas near the finish. It was close to this region where Peterhansel rolled last year and the tricky Argentinean sand and small dunes caused all sorts of problems for many crews in 2009.
San Rafael is a city in the southern region of the Mendoza province and is located 240km from the provincial capital.