X-RAID'S PETERHANSEL DROPS CRUCIAL MINUTES IN SOFT SAND ON SHORTENED STAGE INTO LA SERENA * Chicherit sets fourth fastest time for X-raid team X-raid's * Novitskiy completes stage in eighth and climbs to ninth * Nasser Al-Attiyah wins stage and...
X-RAID'S PETERHANSEL DROPS CRUCIAL MINUTES IN SOFT SAND ON SHORTENED STAGE INTO LA SERENA
* Chicherit sets fourth fastest time for X-raid team X-raid's
* Novitskiy completes stage in eighth and climbs to ninth
* Nasser Al-Attiyah wins stage and reduced Sainz's overall lead
LA SERENA (Chile): Team X-raid GmbH's Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret dropped crucial minutes in soft sand mid-way through the shortened ninth stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally between Copiapo and La Serena in Chile on Monday.
The delay cost them a potential fastest stage time and enabled BMW X3 CC team-mates Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thorner to close to within 14m 35s of their fourth position in the overall classification.
"It was a good stage," said Peterhansel. "For me I made a mistake and we were stuck in a slow place. I fell into a hole in the camel grass. It took a time to move the car very slowly. It was a day when it was easy to make mistakes. The difference to the top three is large and we are now relying on others to have problems. Today was a missed opportunity and now we will leave behind the leaders on a dusty stage tomorrow."
Chicherit was still being plagued by a niggling problem. "I think we have a small wire loose somewhere. We also made a navigational error. We went behind a ridge and could not go back. I tried to find a way passed."
Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and German co-driver Andreas Schulz set the eighth fastest time in the third BMW X3 CC and climb three places to hold ninth in the unofficial overall classification, their cause helped by bad delays for Poland's Krysztof Holowczyc, Brazil's Guilherme Spinelli and American Robbie Gordon.
The stage was won by Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, who reduced Carlos Sainz's overall advantage to 8m 36s.
Peterhansel's record-breaking 54th stage win had been equalled by Kamaz's Vladimir Tchaguine on Sunday's stage and this afternoon's delay meant that the Frenchman was unable to add to his stunning tally of Dakar stage successes.
Monday's special stage was shortened at Sunday's night's briefing because of the risk of low-lying fog in the region. This is a regular phenomenon in this part of Chile and plagued the event on several stages in 2009.
The ASO duly reduced the competitive distance from 338km to just 170km and started the special much later in the morning (3h 45m) to prevent delays and to enable safety and medical helicopters to fly.
Peterhansel and Chicherit held second and third positions at the 30km point in the stage behind Al-Attiyah, although Peterhansel retained his leading position on the track. The pair maintained second and third through 71km, but Peterhansel was delayed in soft sand for around 10 minutes at the 95km mark and plummeted to ninth position through the next checkpoint at 117km. He had dropped in the region of 17 minutes to Al-Attiyah, while Novitskiy was running in 11th position.
The X-raid trio passed the 135km point in fourth, seventh and eighth positions, with Chicherit nestled in behind Al-Attiyah, Giniel de Villiers and Sainz. The Frenchman held on to finish fourth, with Peterhansel and Novitskiy taking sixth and eighth.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the X-raid team will tackle a 238km special stage between La Serena and the Chilean capital Santiago. The day starts with a 112km liaison section, before the 10th stage winds its way along narrow agricultural-type tracks en route to the finish and a second liaison of 236km to the overnight halt.
Santiago is located in the country's central valley at an elevation of 520 metres above sea level and is one of Latin America's most modern commercial centres, with some of the world's most modern infrastructure.