X-RAID'S CHICHERIT AND NOVITSKIY THIRD AND FIFTH FASTEST ON 13TH STAGE INTO CORDOBA * X-raid's Kuipers maintains 10th overall into Cordoba * Chicherit eyes a possible challenge for 10th on final day CORDOBA (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital...
X-RAID'S CHICHERIT AND NOVITSKIY THIRD AND FIFTH FASTEST ON 13TH STAGE INTO CORDOBA
* X-raid's Kuipers maintains 10th overall into Cordoba
* Chicherit eyes a possible challenge for 10th on final day
CORDOBA (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team's three surviving BMW X3 CCs remained firmly on course to finish the 2009 Dakar Rally, after the penultimate and shortened special stage between La Rioja and Cordoba on Friday.
The French duo of Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel set the third fastest time, after being blocked in the dust by a slower Nissan, and X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and Oleg Tyupenkin recorded the fifth quickest time in a second BMW X3 CC.
"This was an interesting stage for me from the WRC, but I discussed this morning the fact that we would slow down and not take any risks," said Novitskiy. "We drove 100% safe today, no push, and will drive the same way tomorrow. We have no chance of making up a place to eighth, so there is no point pushing."
Dutchman Rene Kuipers and his Portuguese co-driver Filipe Palmiero finished 14th and maintained 10th overall, but the Dakar rookie heads into the final stage on Saturday morning a mere 8m 42s in front of team mate Chicherit, as both drivers chase the final place in the top 10, with Novitskiy safe in ninth overall.
"I was blocked again today on the stage for 80km," groaned Chicherit. "I will look tomorrow. If there is a clear track, then I might have a go, but I will not take any risks on the last stage."
"Everything was perfect for us today with no problems," said team director Sven Quandt. "It was a clean run for our cars, although Guerlain was blocked by one of the slower cars. He is only a short distance behind Rene, but it must be a driver decision if he is to try and get into the top 10!"
The special was shortened from 543km to just 220km by race officials, because of recent heavy rains in the Cordoba and La Rioja regions and started after a long 357km liaison section across the Catamarca Province.
The special actually began at the original PC4 (364km) point and used classic WRC Rally of Argentina terrain, finishing just short of Villa Carlos Paz, before a short liaison took crews to the bivouac on the outskirts of Cordoba. The ASO permitted 132 bikes and quads, 93 cars and 55 trucks to start the penultimate stage.
Novitskiy, Kuipers and Chicherit held ninth, 10th and 11th overall at the start of the stage, which didn't get underway for the cars until 13.54hrs. They were fifth, 10th and 22nd into the special, although Chicherit was running as the fastest car through a checkpoint at 62km, before slipping behind stage winner Joan Roma to settle for an eventual third place when he was baulked by the Nissan.
Portugal's Ricardo Leal Dos Santos started the penultimate stage in 76th position overall in his privately-run BMW X5 and started the stage 41st on the road this morning.
Tomorrow (Saturday) marks the final special stage on the 2009 Dakar Rally between Cordoba and Buenos Aires. Teams will use a 224km liaison section through Oliva, Villa Maria and Ballestros to the start of a 227km special stage, along similar gravel roads to the ones they experienced on day one into Santa Rosa de la Pampa.
The nerve-wracking stage will include two passage controls, near Marcos Juanez and Cruz Alta, and a final liaison through San Nicolas de Los Arroyos and Baradero Alsina will take teams back to Buenos Aires in readiness for the ceremonial finish on Sunday, January 18th.