CHICHERIT AND COX HOLD 11TH AND 12TH PLACES ON REST DAY Engine problems threaten Al-Attiyah's Dakar Rally challenge NOUAKCHOTT (Mauritania): Former enduro rider Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford completed the eighth stage of the...
CHICHERIT AND COX HOLD 11TH AND 12TH PLACES ON REST DAY
Engine problems threaten Al-Attiyah's Dakar Rally challenge
NOUAKCHOTT (Mauritania): Former enduro rider Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford completed the eighth stage of the 28th Dakar Rally in 12th position overall in their X3 CC. They were classified 27th through the stage into Nouakchott after falling foul of the treacherous sand dunes.
"It was quite horrible in there," said Cox. "We got stuck in the sand and lost a lot of time. It is much easier to cope with dunes and soft sand on a motorcycle."
French team mate Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel were also in trouble on the Atar to Nouakchott stage, but they arrived at the rest day in a fine 11th place overall, after losing four hours on the eighth stage and finishing the section in 65th place.
"We damaged the front of the car in the dunes and it must have done something to the radiator," said Chicherit. "Because we had to keep filling the engine with water to make sure we didn't overheat. The main thing is that we arrived at the rest halt and are still in a good position for the last week."
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec remained in the Dakar Rally at the official rest day in Nouakchott, but whether they could continue in the event on the ninth stage between Nouakchott and Kiffa on Monday morning was entirely dependent upon the damage the engine in their BMW X3 CC had sustained on the punishing special out of Atar on Saturday morning.
Al-Attiyah, the defending FIA Middle East Rally Champion, was classified 70th through the first passage control after slowing with engine problems. He eventually required assistance from his support mechanics to complete the stage and arrived in the bivouac on Saturday evening. A turbo air intake had failed on the final Moroccan stage last week and the mechanics had worked through the night to keep the Qatari in the race. It appeared that the engine had, in fact, been damaged further in the incident, as Nasser arrived in 73rd place.
"We will take a good close look at Nasser's car today and assess the situation," said X-Raid's Team Director Sven Quandt. "It appears there is some damage to the engine and we hope that this can be repaired. We are not permitted to change the block in the regulations, but other components can be repaired or replaced."
Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and co-driver Tiziano Siviero were also maintaining a consistent climb up the leaderboard and will restart the second week in 28th overall, after completing the stage into Nouakchott in 35th place.
"It was so difficult to make progress in the soft sand and gain any time," said Monterde. "There was a very difficult waypoint and many drivers were going round and round in circles trying to find the correct route. We were okay, but Tiziano was sure he had not seen so many tracks and I was sure that some drivers had not taken the correct route." Monterde had been a fine 13th overall through PC1 and 32nd at the second passage control.
Today the X-raid team will spend the day refitting each of the BMWs at the bivouac, situated near the international airport at Nouakchott. The city was founded in 1958 and is the capital of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Despite its proximity to the Atlantic ocean and its reliance on the sea for fishing and exports, the city remains marked by its desert surroundings with its sand-filled streets and changeable wind patterns.
Major support for the X-Raid team comes from Corona Extra and Magna Steyr.
On Monday morning the rally kick-starts into life with a mammouth 599 kms special stage between Nouakchott and Kiffa in the south-east of Mauritania. The special begins 30 kms from the rest halt and meanders across vast stretches of sandy wasteland, large dunes and several tricky plateux. This is the longest stage of the 2006 Dakar Rally and finishes 245 kms from the overnight halt at Kiffa. Teams are expected to arrive very late into the evening's bivouac.