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Dakar 2007: Frenchman Chicherit crashes out of Dakar Rally.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec leapt into the top 10 of the overall standings in the 29th Dakar Rally, after setting the sixth fastest time on the high-speed stage between Tan Tan in southern Morocco and Zouerat in Mauritania. But the day was spoiled for the X-Raid Team by the news that team front-runners, Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel, were forced out of the event after a high-speed crash wrecked their BMW X3CC around 195km into the day’s special stage. Several crews stopped to ensure that the crew were not seriously injured, but the incident put paid to Chicherit’s chances of following up yesterday’s stage performance with a maiden stage win.

Chicherit began the stage across the border into the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in sixth position in both the general and stage classifications. The Frenchman lost a potential stage win on the stage into Tan Tan when a rear left-hand tyre exploded at speed and cost him valuable minutes to effect emergency repairs.

"The last stage in Morocco was superb for me," said Chicherit. "Up until nine kilometres from the end. There, I had a flat tyre when we were leading the stage. I hesitated to continue, but did not want to risk the car, so I stopped to change the tyre and finished the stage in the dust of Schlesser. My car was superb in the twisty roads, where it was like a motocross. I was looking forward to going into Mauritania this morning."

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec started the fourth African stage into Zouerat in 12th position. Two flat tyres had cost them valuable minutes on the run into Tan Tan on Wednesday. But they head towards Atar in 10th place still in contention to catch overall event leader Carlos Sainz on the remaining stages. "It was so fast today," admitted Al-Attiyah. "The stage was like a motorway. It was a matter of staying on the power. The most powerful cars were always going to have the advantage today."

German Kleinschmidt and Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner began today’s stage in 22nd position in the overall classification and 20th on the road, but were delayed before the first passage control and reached the checkpoint in 42nd position. They were further delayed 372km into the special, a mere 22km from the finish.

Spaniard José-Luis Monterde and Jean-Marie Lurquin had maintained 16th overall after the final Moroccan special stage. But they continued a consistent move in the right direction on the leaderboard and hold 13th overall at the Zouerat bivouac. Brazilian Paulo Nobre finished the stage into Tan Tan in 23rd position and had leapt from 88th overall to 82nd on the run south into Mauritania this morning. He completed the high-speed section across the border into Zouerat in 18th place and continues his gradual climb up the leaderboard.

On Friday, entrants in the Dakar Rally tackle the first of the very difficult special stages between Zouerat and the rest day location at Atar. The special begins four kilometres from the overnight halt and crosses 542km of some of the remotest terrain on the planet. Special.

It is the longest on the event so far this year and finishes in Atar after a short 34km liaison section. The day marks the first of the Mauritanian dune crossings, the incentive to reach the finish being the rest day on Saturday when several ‘plane loads of support mechanics, VIPs and sponsors will arrive for the weekend.

2007/01/11 | 21:18 CET | Editor: MR/X-Raid

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