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LR G4 Challenge: Simple mistakes on Day 23.

The current leader of the Land Rover G4 Challenge, Dmitry Timokhin, is in danger of losing his hold on the top spot after losing his electronic scoring key (or dibber) during Tuesday’s round of competitions in far southwest Bolivia. "I had it after the running competition but not when we arrived at the next, compulsory competition," he explained.

Having to drive over an hour back to try and find the dibber cost Dmitry and his Japanese team mate, Takashi Sugiyama, all of the points scored on Tuesday as they failed to make the start of the day’s compulsory competition. In the end, Dmitry failed to find the dibber.

"It had been a great day," said Tak, head in hands. "We did really well, getting to three competitions. But then we had one disaster - a really big disaster. We forgot to check each other’s dibbers and when we got to the compulsory competition we found that Dmitry did not have his dibber. So now we have no points from today."

Unless a replacement is available for Wednesday’s competition Dmitry and Tak might also lose all points from that day too. Regardless, the loss of an estimated 50 points from Tuesday will have almost certainly handed Dmitry’s lead to South African Martin Dreyer. "I must not think about not scoring on Wednesday," revealed Dmitry. "I must only think about fighting back. It was a stupid mistake and I was the one saying before this event that making mistakes would be costly. This is the second mistake in two days." None of Dmitry’s closest rivals will know until the end of Stage 4 on Friday if his mistakes today and on Monday will give them a chance of squeezing into the top four.

"We just have to keep going flat out," said Michael Tsaoutos of Greece. "It shows that after even almost a month, this competition is still open."

Both Thijs Maartense and Robert Schweiger, who dropped out of Monday’s Stage Start due to altitude sickness, were back in the competition today. Neither thought they were firing on all cylinders as they rejoined the competition. "Last night I thought I was not going to be able to rejoin the G4. I felt freezing and my whole body was weak but the doctors did a great job and this morning I felt well enough to try my luck," said Robert. "I’ve definitely not been 100% but I am glad I made the effort. Not just for me but my team mate Gabriel."

Flooding at the south end of the world’s largest salt lake - Salar de Uyuni - forced the Challenge to re-route around the lake for Tuesday’s six competitions - held in stunning valleys littered with massive formations of volcanic rock near the isolated village of Sanaugustin.

As usual, the pairs of national competitors had to choose the greatest number of competitions they thought they could complete in the allotted time - before then heading to the compulsory competition at Valle de Rocas (Valley of the Rocks).

Advantage went to the first teams out of the morning’s Strategy Pit - held in a yard of ageing Bolivian steam trains. With as much as a half hour lead on the last team away, the Irish/Belgian team of Gary Robertson and Kris Janssens should have been able to notch up at least three competitions before the compulsory competition. "That was the idea but we lost a lot of time when one of our bikes had a problem with the pedals," said Janssens - one of the current top four.

The other two competitors in the current top four, Martin Dreyer of South Africa and Jean-Baptiste Calais of France both managed to score three times before the compulsory competition. Martin and his partner Pablo Burattini of Argentina picked as one of their tests a dramatic mountain bike ride up to the top of a towering cliff. "I thought my chest was going to explode," said Martin after the pounding climb at 4000 metres.

The South African/South American duo then picked a hill run called Apfelstrudel (in which Martin physically pushed Pablo up a slope) before one of a number of driving tests on offer. "It was a hard but really good day," concluded Martin. "The compulsory competition, with high wires, abseiling, jumar, mountain biking and running was awesome, especially in the canyon they found as a venue."

Jean-Baptiste Calais and his partner Claribett Vega of Costa Rica opted for two driving tests and the run before the compulsory competition. The Slick Rock Tech Drive was, as the title suggested, a highly technical test of driving skill on a field of slippery boulders. With one team member out navigating the route and the other behind the wheel, the pair had to get one of the Land Rover’s wheels on up to 18 orange plates. Penalties were issued for any part of the car, other than the tyres, scraping the rocks. "It was really really tricky," said Claribett, who leapt like a gazelle between rocks as she tried to keep ahead of J-B.

The scores of today’s tests will be added to Wednesday and Thursday’s competitions on the Bolivia/Argentina border. The Stage Final will be held on Friday. It will be the last chance for the competitors to get into the all-important top four for Saturday’s Challenge Final - the decider of this year’s Land Rover G4 Challenge winner.

2006/05/16 I 12:15 CET I Editor:

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