FLYING AL-ATTIYAH SETS FASTEST STAGE TIME ONNEMA LOOP STAGE OF DAKAR RALLY * Triumphant Al-Attiyah fastest but awarded delayed time penalties * Kleinschmidt (9th), Monterde (11th) and Nobre (18th) safely through special NEMA, ...
FLYING AL-ATTIYAH SETS FASTEST STAGE TIME ONNEMA LOOP STAGE OF DAKAR RALLY
* Triumphant Al-Attiyah fastest but awarded delayed time penalties
* Kleinschmidt (9th), Monterde (11th) and Nobre (18th) safely through special
NEMA, Mauritania -- Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec completed the last of the difficult special stages of the 29th Dakar Rally -- the 366km loop stage around the Néma bivouac -- in a superb first position and held fourth overall at the end of the day, less than 30 minutes behind Jean-Louis Schlesser.
Al-Attiyah and Guehennec knew that they were in for a battle royale over the 366km Nema loop stage on Tuesday. Twice former winner Schlesser was a mere 2m 11s behind in the overall classification and had pledged the grand attack on Al-Attiyah's grasp of the final podium position, behind the leading Mitsubishis of Stephane Peterhansel and Luc Alphand.
But the organisers awarded Al-Attiyah a delayed 39-minute time penalty in the Nema bivouac, for a speeding violation that was committed over six days ago in Morocco, and the Qatari slipped to fourth overall, a mere 11m 23s ahead of Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka in the third Mitsubishi.
"We fully accepted that Nasser had a speeding penalty and we paid the fine at the time," said X-Raid Director Sven Quandt. "But the time penalty was not imposed at the time, six days ago, and we assumed that it had been dropped. For that reason, we changed our race strategy over the last few days and Nasser has eased his pace accordingly. This is unfair on our team." A protest was placed against the decision.
Al-Attiyah was equal fastest with America's Robbie Gordon through the first passage control and had already taken over four and a half minutes from Schlesser. He was second fastest at PC2.
"It is fantastic for me to win my first ever Dakar special stage," said Al-Attiyah. "This is for the team and everyone who has worked so hard to bring us to this position. We still have a very good chance of reaching the podium, but the goal is to finish this rally in a good position. So I will not take any risks."
German Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner began the Nema loop stage in 16th place in the overall classification. She was 10th at PC1 and went on to complete the stage in ninth position to hold 14th overall.
"We have had our fair share of problems and flat tyres over the last few days, but everyone has a story to tell," said Jutta. Despite all our dramas we are climbing up the leaderboard now. The top 10 is still very possible."
Spaniard José-Luis Monterde and Jean-Marie Lurquin began the stage in 19th overall after setting the 30th fastest time into Nema. He was 13th at PC1 and finished the stage in 11th place to hold 16th overall.
Brazilian Paulo Nobre and co-driver Filipe Palmeiro headed into the Nema loop stage fresh from setting the 15th fastest time from Tichit on Monday. He was 44th in the overall classification at the stage start, 17th at PC1 and 18th at the stage finish.
Major support for the X-Raid team comes from Hessen-based sponsor TrekStor, Magna Steyr, BMW Motoren GmbH, Reiger, BF Goodrich, MAN, Sabelt, BBS and KS-Tools.
Wednesday, January 17th will be the second rest day of the 29th Dakar Rally, the lack of competition brought about by the curtailment of competition between Nema and Timbuktu in the Republic of Mali. It would have marked the Dakar's first visit to the legendary tourist outpost since 1999. The X-Raid Team will drive on a 280km liaison section from Néma to Ayoûn-el-Atroûs instead and competitive action will restart on Thursday, January 18th.
-credit: bmw x-raid