Dakar: X-Raid BMW stage 12 report

FRENCHMAN CHICHERIT POSTS SECOND FASTEST TIME FOR X-RAID TEAM INTO LABE Cox loses time with broken suspension; Monterde on track for Dakar LABE (Guinea): Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the Marathon stage...

FRENCHMAN CHICHERIT POSTS SECOND FASTEST TIME FOR X-RAID TEAM INTO LABE

Cox loses time with broken suspension; Monterde on track for Dakar

LABE (Guinea): Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the Marathon stage from Bamako into Guinea in 10th place in the overall standings, a mere 20 seconds behind the Buggy of Thierry Magnaldi. By the end of the 368 kms special stage, they had made eighth place their own (pending the outcome of Stephane Peterhansel's problems) in the overall standings, after setting the second fastest time behind stage winner and new event leader Luc Alphand.

Chicherit had been seventh fastest into CP1 and had overtaken the twice former WRC champion Carlos Sainz. Without problems with dust from slower cars he made rapid progress over the closing kilometres and arrived at the stage finish a mere 56 seconds behind Alphand. He also beat Thierry Magnaldi 7m35s to make eighth place his own.

Chicherit's performance was the best by an X-raid driver since Frenchman Luc Alphand and co-driver Henri Magne won the Ayoun El Atrous to Tidjikja stage in Mauritania in the 2004 Dakar Rally at the wheel of a BMW X5 on their way to fourth overall. Today's success equalled Alphand's second place on the Nouakchott to Dakar stage the same year.

Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford were 19th overall at the start of Thursday's special, but they were forced to stop and repair broken rear suspension at the 130 kms point. Cox struck a stone and damaged the rear right suspension and both he and Pitchford worked frantically to affect emergency repairs. They managed to get going, but then stopped again a mere three kilometres along the stage with a minor technical problem.

The South African passed CP1 around 70 minutes after the leading cars, in 39th place, but made rapid progress to the end of the stage and managed to climb back to finish the stage in 30th position with a time of 5h 56m 24s. He was unofficially classified in 18th place in Labe, with organisers still waiting the fate of former leader Stephane Peterhansel.

Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and former WRC-winning co-driver Tiziano Siviero began the stage in 23rd overall at the wheel of their BMW X5. The Castellon driver was up to 15th at PC1 and completed the stage in 14th place with a time of 4h 54m 49s.

"We carried out a full check on the cars in Bamako," said X-raid's Team Director Sven Quandt. "We had a small problem with some poor quality fuel and decided to change the fuel filters as a precaution, but nothing too serious."

"It was an excellent result for us today with Guerlain taking the second fastest time. Alfie did not lose too much time and made a good job to get the car repaired quickly."

Major support for the X-raid team comes from Corona Extra and Magna Steyr.

Labe is the capital of one of the eastern regions of Guinea, is an important political and trade centre and is situated in the mountainous Fouta-Djalon area, which rises to 1515 metres above sea level at Mount Loura. This district is also called the 'water castle of Western Africa', as the sources of the Niger, Senegal and Gambia rivers are all to be found nearby. The town was founded in 1720 by the Dialonke people and named after their chief Manga Labe.

On Friday morning the event crosses from Guinea into Senegal and teams will begin to feel they are on the home straight. The special begins a mere seven kilometres out of Labe and finishes 348 kms to the north en route to the overnight halt at Tambacounda. A 212 kms liaison completes the day's timetable and steers teams into the remote Senegalese town.

But this is a special stage with a difference and crews will cross several mountainous passes up to an altitude of 1,000 meters where dust will be a problem and there will be limited opportunities to overtake.

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Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Alfie Cox , Jose Luis Monterde , Guerlain Chicherit , Thierry Magnaldi , Ralph Pitchford