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Hail Saudi Baja: Al Attiyah "feeling very positive after this win".

The AlgoDyne X-Raid Team recorded a stunning victory in the Saudi Arabian Hail Baja, the opening round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, when Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel crushed their nearest rivals by 21m 41s.

The duo were competing together for the first time in a Trebur-built BMW X3 CC, but were never troubled over two punishing selective sections through Saudi Arabia’s Nafud desert. The diesel-engined X3CC never missed a beat and was a model of reliability throughout, despite large patches of treacherous camel grass and the rigours of the Arabian desert. The result marked the first outright victory for the BMW X3CC.

"It was a very interesting and difficult race," admitted a delighted Al-Attiyah. "The stages reminded me of those you would find in Mauritania on the Dakar. There was camel grass on the first one and today was faster, but still not easy. Our car was superb. We had no problems at all. X-raid has done a wonderful job on the development. Now I look forward to meeting the other factory teams this season. We are feeling very positive after this win."

Al-Attiyah set the second fastest time behind Dutchman Tonni van Deijne’s Mitsubishi in the two-kilometre leg one super special stage on a dusty track on the outskirts of Hail city, but was permitted to start first on the road for the first desert selective section on safety grounds.

The new partnership with Baumel got off to a solid start, although the Frenchman admitted that they had both been cautious over the opening kilometres where camel grass was prevalent and it was easy to make a mistake.

The BMW X3CC began to edge away from Boris Gadasin’s ex-factory Nissan Navara and Al-Attiyah had built up a seven-minute lead by the refuelling point of the 298.85km section at 177.10km. When Gadasin lost his way for several minutes over the closing tracks through soft sand and camel grass, Al-Attiyah reached the finish with a substantial 19m 54s overall lead.

"The first stage was tricky," admitted Al-Attiyah. "I was quite surprised. It was like a classic Dakar stage through Mauritania. It reminded me of the Elephant Rock special we have done in the past. There was a lot of camel grass." Baumel concurred with his team mate: "It was not an easy stage at all. There was a lot of camel grass everywhere. If you slipped off the defined track you could get into trouble. We started carefully, because it was our first event together, but Nasser pushed more towards the end. We took no chances. It would have been easy to make an expensive mistake."

Team director Sven Quandt admitted that Al-Attiyah would need to drive in a restrained manner over the 187.96km of the final Hail loop stage through the Nafud desert to ensure that he protected his 19m 54s lead. The Qatari was 41 seconds faster than the Russian through the 24km point` at the start of leg three and gradually inched away without taking any risks, despite a slight delay for a difficult waypoint. He eventually reached the finish of the selective 1m 47s in front of his Russian rival to complete a comfortable win.

"This was an excellent result for the team on a very enjoyable event," admitted team director Sven Quandt. "The car still looks brand new, but that belies the fact that the stages were a really good test. The terrain here has everything. It is bumpy, twisty, fast, there are patches of camel grass and dunes. The potential for this type of motorsport in Saudi Arabia is enormous."

2008/02/14 | 14:40 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid

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