BMW X-raid stage four report

X-RAID'S AL-ATTIYAH AND TERRANOVA SECOND AND SEVENTH QUICKEST ON FOURTH DAKAR RALLY STAGE * Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah maintains second place * Russian Novitskiy back on pace after delays into Jacobacci NEUQUEN (Argentina): X-raid's Sails...


* Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah maintains second place
* Russian Novitskiy back on pace after delays into Jacobacci

NEUQUEN (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team maintained the pressure on the leading Spaniard Carlos Sainz, by setting the second, seventh and ninth fastest times on a shorter, but nonetheless, demanding special stage between Ingeniero Jacobacci and Neuquen through a region renowned for its palaeontology in western Patagonia on Tuesday.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner were the first crew into the stage and held an advantage early on, before slipping behind eventual stage winner Sainz. The Spaniard only extended his overall lead by six seconds to 3m 46s after a spirited late surge by Al-Attiyah in his latest-specification Trebur-built BMW X3 CC.

Al-Attiyah duly set the second fastest time to maintain a similar position in the overall rankings, while team mates Orlando Terranova and Alain Guehennec were seventh quickest, although the Argentinean had been second fastest into the opening passage control, before losing time late on with a puncture.

"It was like a WRC rally in one day today," said Al-Attiyah. "I am quite happy with our result, even though we nearly caught Carlos and won the stage when he stopped to check a slow puncture. Today was only gravel with some difficult river crossings, but we are expecting some dunes tomorrow and I am in a good position to keep up the pressure."

"Our drivers are all doing very well and driving in a very professional manner now," said team director Sven Quandt. "We have six cars in the bivouac with little damage and little work for the mechanics. That is important at this stage of the race."

"The stage was very difficult to overtake," said Terranova. "We caught (Mark) Miller) and then we started to catch bikes and quads and then more bikes. I made a mistake in one navigation point and we drove through a big sea of cacti and I got a big puncture. That cost us second or third in the stage and I finished seventh.

"I made tomorrow's stage by bike one time. Maybe it is the same. It looks similar on the map and it will be difficult."

Today's relatively short special stage was shortened even further by 79km at the request of a local landowner, although it retained its tricky and varied nature. Fifty-six cars, bikes and trucks had retired from the race this morning, out of the original 531 starters.

Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn and Belgian co-driver Eddy Chevallier set the 14th fastest time in their BMW X3 CC and now hold 12thb overall.

Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel had climbed to 93rd position at the start of the day's stage and eventually claimed the ninth fastest time to continue their gradual assault on the middle reaches of the leader board.

"Now it is a new race for me after the problems on the first day," admitted Chicherit. "A win is not possible, so now I have to stay in contact inside the top 10 and stay close to Nasser. Today was the most difficult for us so far and we had a brake problem after 100km and it was difficult to take the right line into the corners."

Dutchman Rene Kuipers and Portuguese co-driver Filipe Palmeiro have found a consistent pace in their BMW X3 CC and completed the fourth leg in 19th position to climb to 17th overall. X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and co-driver Oleg Tyupenkin lost their place in the top 12 on the stage into Ingeniero Jacobacci on Monday afternoon. The Russian hit a rock and the impact damaged his BMW X3 CC's front suspension. He eventually completed the stage in 120th position and slipped to 40th in the overall standings after losing over four hours making repairs.

The Russian was reseeded in 21st position for safety reasons, held 11th through PC1 and eventually finished the stage in 13th place. Tomorrow (Wednesday) the route continues its steady climb north from the harsh hinterlands of Patagonia into less hostile and more sandy terrain en route to San Rafael close to the Argentinean foothills of the mighty Andes mountain range.

The day begins with a 173km liaison section through Barda del Medilo to the start of a 506km special stage, which has an opening passage control near Tres Chorros and a second checkpoint after a run through the mountaineous Sierra del Nevado. A short 84km liaison takes team to the overnight halt, which is a city on the Diamante River in the southern region of the Mendoza Province, 650 metres above sea level.

-credit: x-raid

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Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Tina Thorner , Peter van Merksteijn , Guerlain Chicherit , Matthieu Baumel , Filipe Palmeiro , Oleg Tyupenkin , René Kuipers , Orlando Terranova