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PAX Rally: X-raid's Al-Attiyah and Campos hold seventh and eighth places.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner set the fourth fastest time for the X-Raid Team on the second stage of the Pax Rally in Portugal on Thursday. The team duo duly moved up from eighth to seventh position in the overall standings, but the result could have been so much better had they not lost the stage lead after the second passage control when they collected a time-consuming late puncture.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz moved into the joint outright lead with Frenchman Luc Alphand with three days remaining. Alphand's team mate St├ęphane Peterhansel benefited from Al-Attiyah's misfortune to claim the fastest time of the day and move to within two seconds of the leading pair.

"We softened the suspension settings on the cars last night and it made a world of difference," said X-raid's team director Sven Quandt. "Nasser was the man to beat on the stage today. He led all the way through the first two passage controls and would have taken the stage win. But he got a puncture after the last PC. He proved that we have the pace to beat our rivals though and we will continue to press on tomorrow."

Al-Attiyah's X-raid team mates, Filipe Campos and Jaime Baptista, set the ninth fastest time and slipped to eighth in the general classification in their X-raid Portugal BMW X3 CC. Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel were eighth quickest and moved up from 14th overall. Russian Leonid Novitskiy was provisionally 11th and held 10th place.

Overnight leader Luc Alphand led the surviving 44 teams into the second stage, with Campos and Al-Attiyah heading the X-raid contingent in seventh and eighth places. Chicherit and Terranova restarted in 14th and 36th places after delays on the opening day, which saw the Argentinean incur heavy time penalties through personal illness.

Overnight revisions to the suspension settings on the X-raid cars paid dividends and Al-Attiyah was the fastest driver in the entire field at the 63.10km opening passage control, the Qatari edging 13 seconds in front of his rivals, with Germany's Dieter Depping and Frenchman St├ęphane Peterhansel his closest challengers. Campos, Chicherit, Terranova and Novitskiy were running in sixth, ninth, 11th and 12th places.

Al-Attiyah maintained the initiative through the second passage control at the 121.59km point and was running 12 seconds ahead of Peterhansel, with Joan Roma and Depping over a minute behind and overnight leader Alphand 2m 16s adrift. Chicherit leapt into contention for a top stage result by running in the sixth fastest position on the stage, with Campos in eighth and Novitskiy in 10th.

Terranova was enjoying a super run at the back of the field, overtaking numerous back-markers as he continued to surge through the pack after his illness on Wednesday. He was 14th quickest at PC2.

Al-Attiyah maintained his composure over the closing 78km, but he collected a puncture and slipped to fourth position, with Peterhansel benefiting to claim the stage win.

Tomorrow (Friday) teams will tackle two short 90km selective sections. The first follows a 22km liaison from Benavente and the second precedes a road section to the quaint old village of Alcochete on the banks of the Tagus river. The organisers report that this stage had been planned for use in the cancelled 2008 Dakar Rally.

2008/09/11 | 22:12 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid/Neil Perkins

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