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PAX Rally: X-Raid’s Al-Attiyah moves up to sixth after thrilling leg.

Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel were the form duo for the AlgoDyne Green Power Racing Team on the third day of the Pax Rally in Portugal on Friday.

The BMW X-raid team pairing set the second fastest time on the first stage and the third quickest time on stage four. Team mates Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Tina Thörner moved up to sixth overall in the general classification after a polished performance across the remote tracks of rural Portugal, which saw them set the fifth and second quickest times on the day's short stages.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz set the fastest time on both specials to take an outright lead heading into the penultimate stage of the event from Alcochete to Portimao on Saturday. Luc Alphand slipped into equal third place behind his French team mate Stéphane Peterhansel.

"It was a good day for us," enthused X-raid's team director Sven Quandt. "Only Carlos Sainz managed to beat our leading cars. It was not easy and it will not be easy tomorrow when Nasser and Guerlain will be running near the front of the field and will be cleaning the stage. This will be a disadvantage for sure. We are on the pace of the leaders now. We will see what develops over the next two days."

The quintet of X-raid BMW X3 CCs started the opening stage from fourth, eighth, ninth, 11th and 14th places out of the 42 remaining cars, with Chicherit climbing to 11th overall after the second leg and Terranova moving up to 33rd.

There was a passage control at the 51.25km point on both 90km selective sections on Friday and joint overnight leader Carlos Sainz was the fastest driver through that point on the third stage, with Chicherit hitting form by running second. Al-Attiyah held fifth place, Terranova and Campos were eighth and ninth, but Russian Leonid Novitskiy crashed 31km into the stage and was unable to continue.

Sainz maintained his advantage to the stage finish and moved into a one-minute outright rally lead, as Chicherit confirmed a superb second fastest time and Al-Attiyah was fifth.

An accident for Germany's Dieter Depping ensured that Al-Attiyah also climbed to sixth in the overall standings and the flying Chicherit also moved into the top 10. Campos moved up to seventh overall with the eighth fastest time and Terranova was ninth quickest and climbed to 30th in the general classification.

Sainz was the pace setter at the first passage control on the repeat run of the 90km stage when action resumed on Friday afternoon. Peterhansel had been the first driver into the stage, with Al-Attiyah, Chicherit and Campos running in third, sixth and seventh places at the start of the section, but the X-raid trio were second, third and eighth quickest at PC1.

The Spaniard held on to his stage lead to take the outright advantage into Saturday's fourth leg, while Al-Attiyah and Chicherit completed the stage in second and third positions to hold sixth and ninth at the end of the leg, although Chicherit closest to within striking distance of Pedro Grancha's eighth position.

Tomorrow (Saturday) teams will tackle the penultimate stage of the event between Alcochete and Portimao, the treacherous stage linking the Ribatejo plains with the Algarve coast. Sections of the special were used in the 2007 Dakar Rally and there are several sections of reportedly tricky sandy terrain.

An 89km liaison section guides crews to the start of the 159km competitive stage before a 220km liaison takes teams to the overnight halt and the finish of the longest leg of the entire event at 468km.

2008/09/12 | 23:18 CET | Editor: MR/X-Raid BMW/Rita Konya

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