|Abu Dhabi DC: Mini´s Al Mutaiwei - "We are continuing to close on Schlesser".|
Dubai’s Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei and German codriver Andreas Schulz guided their X-raid Mini All4 Racing to a second successive fastest stage time after a demanding split special stage on Wednesday. Their success reduced overall leader Jean-Louis Schlesser’s lead to an unofficial 16:40 minutes with two stages remaining.
"All is going well, very smooth and no punctures," said a delighted Al-Mutaiwei, who is competing in the event for the seventh time and survived three punctures on his way to the fastest time on Tuesday’s stage. "We are continuing to close on Schlesser."
"Khalifa is driving very well," added co-driver Schulz. "If it was not for the first day delay we could be well in front now. The gap is closing and we have to attack. I have been so impressed with Khalifa and the way that he has been driving since his return to the sport. Maybe he has had a good teacher!"
Al-Mutaiwei began SS03 at Tharwaniyah as first car on the road - 24:36 minutes behind Schlesser in the overall standings - and that running order ‘disadvantage’ failed to prevent the Emirati from reducing Schlesser’s virtual overall lead by one minute at PC1.
But the Frenchman hit back to the second passage control and turned the deficit into a three-second advantage as the pair headed for the neutralisation section between the two parts of the day’s 345 km Qasr Al-Sarab loop stage.
Russia’s Ilya Kusnetsov, Frenchman Patrick Sireyjol and Russian Vladimir Vasilyev kept up the pressure on the day’s stage, the first section of which finished at the Qasr Al-Sarab resort and included passes through some of the towering UAE dunes.
The second 190 km section of the leg (stage four) through the Ramlat Ar Rabbad desert began from the entrance to the hotel at the Arabian-style resort and Al-Mutaiwei continued his determined pursuit of Schlesser, a five-time winner of the event since 1994.
The Fazza Rally Team driver managed to extend his stage advantage over Schlesser to 10:06 mins at the next PC and reduced the Frenchman’s virtual overall lead to 14:30 mins, as Sireyjol caught Schlesser at the control.
Al-Mutaiwei was pegged back from then on and reached the finish 7m 56s in front of Schlesser to record a second successive fastest stage time and continue to chisel away at the Frenchman’s lead.
2012/04/05 | 10:54 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/PERKINS