MAURITANIAN DUNES PROVE CRUCIAL TEST FOR AL-ATTIYAH Chicherit 12th into Atar and 9th overall; Cox tackle first major Mauritanian dunes ATAR (Mauritania): Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel followed the dust of 1993...
MAURITANIAN DUNES PROVE CRUCIAL TEST FOR AL-ATTIYAH
Chicherit 12th into Atar and 9th overall; Cox tackle first major Mauritanian dunes
ATAR (Mauritania): Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel followed the dust of 1993 Dakar winner Bruno Saby into the Zouerat to Atar stage and were classified 16th overall at PC1 and 12th at PC2. They eventually finished the stage in 12th position and climbed into an official ninth place in the overall standings at 18.30 hrs (CET) on Friday evening.
"It was such a tough stage today," said the Frenchman. "There were a lot of really difficult sand holes and stretches of camel grass where it was so easy to lose time. I am pleased to have reached the finish, but I expect more of the same on Saturday and then another very tough stage on Monday after the rest day."
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec began the morning's stage in 14th position on the road, sandwiched between French veteran racing driver Hanri Pescarolo and Phillipe Gache. He was classified 30th in the overall standings, after the sterling work carried out by the X-Raid mechanics to repair his engine in Tan Tan.
But Al-Attiyah was soon in trouble once again, along with several of the leading teams including Jean-Louis Schlesser and Giniel de Villiers, when he took the wrong route in an area of tricky navigation and reached the first passage control in 41st position, 90 minutes behind the leader Peterhansel.
Al-Attiyah eventually reached the Atar bivouac in fifth position, but it was evident from the Iritrack tracking system that the Qatari had missed the second passage control and time penalties were expected to be imposed on Friday evening by race officials.
Overnight leader Giniel de Villiers slipped to fourth overall after navigational problems and there were also long delays for former front-runners Carlos Sainz and Bruno Saby and an accident for Mark Miller. Frenchman Luc Alphand snatched the overall lead for the first time, with team mate Stephane Peterhansel in second place.
Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford started the stage behind French racing driver Phillipe Gache and in front of Spaniard Josep-Marie Servia's Buggy and were 20th at PC1 and 14th at PC2. They were awaited at the Atar bivouac at 18.30 hrs (CET).
Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and former WRC-winning co-driver Tiziano Siviero began the special in 46th place in the overall rankings and were sandwiched between Thierry de Lavergne and Ellen Lohr on the track for the start of the first treacherous dune crossings on this year's event. The pair lost 90 minutes in the soft sand before the opening passage control and were running down in 72nd place at PC1 and 38th at PC2 at 18.30 hrs (CET).
Major support for the X-Raid team comes from Corona Extra and Magna Steyr.
The town of Atar was founded in the 17th century by the Chinguetti tribe and is one of the main links on the Trans-Saharan trail between traditional Black Africa, the Sahara and the Magreb region.
Saturday morning marks the final special stage before Sunday's rest day at the coastal city of Nouakchott, Mauritanian's commercial capital. A 34 kms liaison takes crews south-west from Atar to the start of a 508 kms special across western Mauritania. The stage crosses several canyons and wadis and there are numerous fast sections across a variety of track surfaces. The stage finishes by Ouad Naga, 26 kms east of Nouakchott.