X-RAID'S TERRANOVA AND NOVITSKIY SET FOURTH AND SIXTH FASTEST TIMES INTO COPIAPO * X-raid's Kuipers safely through first Atacama special * Driveshaft change costs Chicherit crucial time into Copiapo PIAPO (Chile): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing...
X-RAID'S TERRANOVA AND NOVITSKIY SET FOURTH AND SIXTH FASTEST TIMES INTO COPIAPO
* X-raid's Kuipers safely through first Atacama special
* Driveshaft change costs Chicherit crucial time into Copiapo
PIAPO (Chile): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team's Orlando Terranova and Leonid Novitskiy were in superb form as crews crossed the first competitive kilometres of Chile's Atacama Desert on the ninth special stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally between La Serena and Copiapo on Monday.
Terranova and Novitskiy set the fourth and sixth fastest times on the punishing 430km timed section, but could easily have set the third and fourth times had American Robbie Gordon not picked up his pace in the latter kilometres of the stage and Novitskiy slipped behind Giniel de Villiers late on.
Rene Kuipers kept his Dakar dream going with the 12th fastest time, but Guerlain Chicherit lost time with an oil leak, a minor sensor problem and a broken driveshaft. Terranova and Kuipers also climbed in the overall rankings to eighth and ninth places after Germany's Dieter Depping was delayed.
"One of our cars had a few problems today, which isn't good, but Orly and Leonid are running fine and that is very pleasing," said team director Sven Quandt. "Now we are into the second week some components and some members of the team are maybe getting a little tired. So we have to take care now over the next three days."
Terranova, from Mendoza in Argentina, and French co-driver Alain Guehennec bounced back from delays into La Serena on Sunday with a competitive pace from the outset of the second Chilean stage and were running second through the opening passage control, 10 seconds in front of overall rally leader Carlos Sainz.
They maintained a superb pace through the 235km point at PC3 and held third on the stage, before finishing behind Gordon in fourth place.
"Today was all good because we had a full stage with a good clear run," said Terranova. "The car was perfect and we only had one puncture, but we did make a small navigation mistake at the end. I am quite happy to be among the leading cars tomorrow. It will mean less dust for us and less danger. We are relying on other cars in front having problems if we are to move up the rankings, but you never know."
Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit was running up in third position through the early kilometres of the special stage, but sustained a minor oil leak before the opening passage control at 131km and slipped to 10th, 20 minutes behind Mark Miller.
The crew then had a minor sensor problem and were forced to change a drive shaft between the first and second passage control and lost a further 45 minutes. They were classified 53rd overall at PC4 and looked set to slip down the overall rankings.
Dutchman Rene Kuipers and Portuguese co-driver Filipe Palmeiro began the special in 12th position and continued to stun the opposition with the seventh fastest time to the opening PC, Kuipers making a mockery of the fact that he is taking part in his first Dakar. He slipped to 11th through PCs two, three and four and completed the test in 12th.
"Ninth place for us is great, because this is my driver's first Dakar," said Palmeiro. "We have been taking care and doing well. Today we made a couple of little mistakes, but we will be 12th tomorrow. I think it is better for us to be amongst the 'peleton' in the big loop stage. The track should not be too bad. The important thing for us is to finish that stage."
X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and Oleg Tyupenkin began the stage in 14th position on the road, but surged up the leader board to fourth through the opening passage control and were running well at PC4. The Russians finished eventually the stage in sixth place.
"I'm not really that happy with Orly and Leonid now have to start the big loop stage in fourth and sixth on Tuesday," added Quandt. "Normally it is better to start a long stage like this in eighth or ninth, especially in the dunes. Rene is doing a superb job, beyond anyone's expectations. But it is the first time for him. He is exhausted, so we need to take care of him now."
Teams had left the bivouac in La Serena in cool, misty conditions - an effect caused by cold air from the ocean colliding with the warm air of the desert - and it caused some small logistical delays for the ASO.
The last 19km of today's special was cancelled and ran as a liaison section, as event officials decided against sending weary crews into a sea of tricky sand dunes in high temperatures at the end of an already long stage.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) service vehicles and event officials will remain at the Copiapo bivouac, while competitors tackle the longest stage of the entire event - a punishing 666km classic loop around the Atacama desert taking in a series of high dunes at altitude in extreme temperatures.
The stage will finish at the Copiapo bivouac and includes seven passage controls in a gruelling loop through the dunes and sand trails of the upper Atacama.