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Morocco Rally: Nasser Al Attiyah closes in third Overall.

The AlgoDyne Green Power Racing Team was firmly back on track to achieve a top finish in the Guy Hoquet Rally of Morocco, round four of the FIA Cross Country Rallies World Cup, after the second loop stage around Zagora on Wednesday.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec began the day in fourth overall in their X-Raid BMW X3CC, but set the third fastest time behind the leading Volkswagen pairing of Carlos Sainz and Giniel de Villiers and now trail third-placed Carlos Sousa by a mere 21 seconds, despite picking up a flat tyre shortly after the passage control.

Team mates Guerlain Chicherit and Matthieu Baumel lost their chance of victory on day one, but the French extreme skiing champion confirmed his potential behind the wheel of a Trebur-built BMW X3 CC by setting the sixth fastest time, despite collecting two punctures in the punishing heat and dust of a Moroccan late September morning.

Al-Attiyah was in flying form on this morning’s 327km special stage: he was running ahead of third-placed Sousa at the 67km point and was second fastest at the passage control at 185km, 16 seconds ahead of the overnight leader Giniel de Villiers and 54 seconds behind the former WRC champion Carlos Sainz.

By 245km, he was down to fourth because of the puncture, but the Qatari speeded up over the closing kilometres and managed to reduce Sousa’s overnight advantage from 1m 46s to a mere 21s heading into the third leg of six on Thursday. Spaniard Sainz overcame his South African De Villiers team mate to take the overall lead.

"I had a really good run to the first passage control and was much happier with everything," said Al-Attiyah. But then we got a flat tyre about 500 metres after the PC and that cost us time. Now we have Carlos Sousa in our sights and should be able to move up to third tomorrow."

Chicherit began the day seventh on the road for safety reasons and in 25th position overall. After Tuesday’s electrical relay problems, he was quickly back into a competitive pace and was running sixth fastest through the 67km point and fifth at PC1, before slipping to sixth at the 245km point behind Portugal’s Carlos Sousa.

Brazilians Paolo Nobre and Filipe Palmeiro started the day sixth on the road and in 15th overall out of the 31 cars that made the start. They eventually finished the stage as the first privateers in an excellent seventh overall in their BMW X3CC, well clear of the Schlesser Buggies of Dominique Housieaux and Jose-Luis Monterde, and in a position to challenge Housieaux for sixth overall over the third stage on Thursday.

"It was a much better day for us," said X-Raid Director Sven Quandt. "We made some changes on the cars last night and they worked well. But we still had some tyre wear and that is something we will work on now. Nasser had one puncture and Guerlain had two, but they were both on a good pace. Each night we will make some changes until we are happy with the set-up. As far as the overall standings are concerned, Carlos and Giniel are really pushing hard, but I am sure that Nasser will be able to take Carlos Sousa tomorrow and move up to third overall."

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the third leg of this year’s Guy Hoquet Rally of Morocco and features a total route of 354km. The day begins with an eight-kilometre liaison, which takes teams to the start of a 344km selective section near the dunes at Nakhla and a two-kilometre liaison brings crews back to a track near the airport at Zagora.

Rolling piste, sand and gravel are features of the first section to the passage control at 190km and fast terrain and some rocky tracks are prevalent over the closing kilometres into Zagora. The stage start shares the same location as the stage finish from the first leg. The first 80km to the assistance point in Oujrame are reported to be particularly tricky, although stony terrain will be prevalent and tricky navigation will be necessary over the next section.

Speed restrictions will be in place when teams pass certain villages, before the piste becomes a chott and the speed will increase for around 100km. The crater at Tafenna must be crossed before teams descend into the Draa wadi en route to the stage finish in Zagora.

2007/09/26 | 16:38 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid

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