FRENCH X-RAID DEBUTANT CHICHERIT TAKES SUPERB NINTH OVERALL IN DAKAR South African Alfie Cox completes Dakar car debut in 15th place; Monterde suffers final stage transmission agony and slips to 25th DAKAR (Senegal): French driver ...
FRENCH X-RAID DEBUTANT CHICHERIT TAKES SUPERB NINTH OVERALL IN DAKAR
South African Alfie Cox completes Dakar car debut in 15th place; Monterde suffers final stage transmission agony and slips to 25th
DAKAR (Senegal): French driver Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel finished their first Dakar Rally with the X-Raid team in a superb ninth overall and had the additional thrill of recording a first outright Dakar stage win on the section between Tambacounda and Dakar.
Chicherit led arch rival Thierry Magnaldi by 44 seconds on Saturday evening, but the final 31 kms special stage around Lac Rose was cancelled by event organisers and his ninth position was secured. This was the Frenchman's second Dakar outing; he had finished 49th overall last year at the wheel of a Bowler Wildcat.
"I think I proved that we are a credible threat on this rally and can only improve in future," said Chicherit. "It was a grest feeling to cap a top 10 finish with a stage win. We had a few small problems, like many other drivers, but to finish in the top 10 was the goal and I am happy."
Former enduro rider and current South African Off-Road champion Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford finished their first Dakar Rally together on four wheels in 15th overall at the wheel of a second BMW X3CC. Cox set the second fastest time on the stage between Tambacounda and Dakar, but lost over one hour two days before when he struck a rock and broke the rear suspension on his Trebur-built car.
"I feel a little disappointed that I couldn't have been a little higher up the leaderboard," said Cox in Dakar. "We lost a lot of time with clutch problems last week and that really cost me any chance of a top 10. I have been getting used to the car all the time. Ralph did a great job on the navigation. It was never easy. Next time I am sure we can finish higher."
Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and former WRC-winning co-driver Tiziano Siviero had finished the 2005 Dakar Rally in ninth overall at the wheel of a BMW X5, but any thoughts they had of improving on that position were extinguished long before they suffered penultimate stage agony en route to Dakar.
A mere seven kilometres into what turned out to be the final special stage between Tambacounda and Dakar in Senegal on Saturday, Monterde's X5 suffered a gearbox input shaft breakage and he was forced to wait for the assistance truck.
Precious minutes ticked by for the Castellon driver, who had begun the stage in a fine 20th overall. He eventually arrived at the Dakar in-control early on Saturday evening, classified last on the stage in 69th place with a seven-hour penalty and had slipped to 25th in the event classification.
"It was a very disappointing day yesterday to lose so much time on what turned out to be the last stage," said Monterde. "But we managed to reach Dakar and that was the goal."
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec had been the team's pre-event favourites to take a top five position. Although the defending FIA Middle East rally champion set several impressive stage times, he sustained clutch and engine problems and eventually retired from the race at the official rest day in Nouakchott after plummetting from a top 10 position to 61st overall.
"We had not been able to have a clear run for a few days since the engine problem in Morocco," said Nasser. "The mechanics were tired. Each day we were forced to stop for assistance. The car was not running properly and this was putting additional strain on the team each day, when they could be concentrating on the other three cars in our team."
"I am very proud of my team and the work they have carried out on this rally," said X-Raid's Team Director Sven Quandt. "Every member of the operation has worked hard and it was fitting reward that we reached the finish in a good position and earned a memorable stage win for Guerlain and Matthieu between Tambacounda and Dakar."