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Morocco Rally: Punctures cost X-Raid´s Al Attiyah crucial time.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec suffered no less than three punctures and, therefore, set the fourth fastest time on the third 344km Zagora loop stage in Morocco on Thursday. The pair maintain fourth overall for the AlgoDyne Green Power Racing Team on the fourth round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup.

The defending FIA Production World Rally Champion (P-WRC) needed to beat Portugal’s Carlos Sousa by more than 21 seconds to gain the final podium place for the Trebur-based X-Raid Team. But he now trails the Portuguese driver by 5m 43s heading into the fourth leg.

Guerlain Chicherit and Matthieu Baumel had climbed 10 places from 25th to 15th in the overall standings on Wednesday and set about pushing towards the top 10 on leg three. Guerlain was quite capable of cruising past both Latvia’s Janis Azis and Italian Maurizio Traglio, but needed to gain 20 minutes on Poland’s Lukazs Komornicki to gain 12th place. Unfortuntately, the Frenchman was badly delayed by electrical problems around 150km from the finish of the stage and the service crew were forced to retrieve the X3 from the special.

Brazilians Paolo Nobre and Filipe Palmeiro began leg three in eighth overall, a mere 4m 01s behind the former French climbing champion Isabelle Patissier. But they set the seventh fastest time and moved up to seventh in the overall standings and within striking distance of the sixth-placed Schlesser-Buggy of Dominique Housieaux.

"Nasser suffered bad tyre wear today and had three flat tyres. This is something we need to address," said X-Raid Director Sven Quandt. "We are not sure what the exact problem was with Guerlain’s car, but it suffered electrical problems."

Tomorrow (Friday) marks leg four of the event and is the fourth successive Zagora loop section, totalling 413km. A 99km tarmac liaison section takes crews to the start of a tricky opening section from M’Hamid, 100km south of Zagora, and on through deep sand and dunes.

There is around 40km of fesh fesh or powdery sand and then a further 60km on sandy terrain to the passage control at the 115km point. This section passes through the Chegaga Erg - a large ocean of sand - where the NPO have warned teams about the importance of correct tyre pressures, before the stage forms a loop around Lake Iriki and a large chott.

After the chott, teams will need to pass several small dunes, although the remainder of the stage is run on typically Moroccan gravel and rocky terrain and eventually finishes at Tagounite, before a 66km liaison takes teams back to the bivouac in Zagora.

2007/08/29 | 16:38 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid

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