|Baja Spain: Russian Vasilyev leads from Peterhansel after SS01 Saturday|
The Russian crew of Vladimir Vasilyev and Vitaliy Yevtyekhov held an unofficial two-second lead over Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret after the day’s first stage and Friday evening’s super special stage.
Dubai’s Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei and German co-driver Andreas Schulz held third overall after the opening 202.35km special stage of the Baja Spain, round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, on Saturday afternoon.
"That was a very demanding and long stage," admitted Al-Mutaiwei. "I wasn’t giving it 100% and still have something in reserve. It is a short event so anything can happen and I don’t want to risk anything. I am third, but the gap is small and I will push a bit more to try and get into the top two places. My goal, first and foremost, is the championship."
Teams tackled a 5.39km super special stage near the Aragon Motorland circuit on Friday evening and Peterhansel set the fastest time of 5m 13.3s in his X-raid Mini, the Frenchman finishing 24.3s clear of Dutchman Erik van Loon.
Al-Mutaiwei was content to slot into sixth position behind the leading pair, Silk Way Rally winner Boris Gadasin, Vladimir Vasilyev and Miroslav Zapletal. More importantly for the Fazza Rally Team star was the news that his championship rival Jean-Louis Schlesser had lost eight minutes stuck on the stage and would have to start Saturday’s first 202.35km special stage from 59th overall and seventh on the road.
Saturday’s two special stages took place in the remote Monegros area of Aragon, with the first of the day’s two stages starting and finishing in the small Aragon municipality of Perdiguera and the second 96km special starting in Perdiguera and finishing in the village of La Almolda.
Al-Mutaiwei was in superb form from the outset and the Emirati was the fastest of all the drivers to the first checkpoint at 55.59km. He was running a virtual 21 seconds quicker than Peterhansel, with Schlesser over two minutes further adrift.
Peterhansel reached the 98.06km checkpoint in 69m 09s and Al-Mutaiwei passed Zapletal having dropped 25 seconds to his team-mate, as the leaders embarked upon the second half of the first special. By the 154.97km point, Al-Mutaiwei had slipped to a virtual third position in the overall standings behind Peterhansel and Vasilyev.
Vasilyev eventually set the fastest time of 2h 26m 38s, with Peterhansel in second position and Al-Mutaiwei finishing third in 2h 27m 46s. Crews will tackle one run through the 201.22km special stage for the second time on Sunday.
2012/07/22 | 19:11 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PERKINS/MCH PHOTO