|SA-Dakar: Stéphane Peterhansel climbs into contention for the Podium.|
Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret and their Monster X-raid BMW X3CC climbed back into contention for a podium finish on a dramatic 11th special stage, held in punishing heat between Chilecito and San Juan, on Thursday. The French crew were held up in dust for much of the special, but managed to set the second fastest time behind stage winner and runaway overall leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.
With the news that Spain’s Carlos Sainz was badly delayed by front suspension problems, Peterhansel will start the penultimate special on Friday, 13m 18s behind the Spaniard who lost second overall to Giniel de Villiers. Al-Attiyah’s outright advantage grew to 51m 49s as a result of Sainz’s woes.
"Since about 150km we were in the dust and it was not possible to be within 300 metres of Giniel," said Peterhansel. "We did all the stage at the limit of his dust and we were never able to pass. The car was perfect, but the second stage was so hot. This rally is not over yet. Tomorrow will be the longest stage of the rally. Other long stages have been cut. I think it could be very interesting tomorrow."
Krzysztof Holowczyc and Jean-Marc Fortin started the special in second position behind Giniel de Villiers and were under strict instructions from team director Sven Quandt not to take any undue risks if they did decide to challenge Mark Miller’s hold on fifth overall.
The Pole reached the start of the neutralisation zone just under 14 minutes behind the leaders and had slipped to fifth place on the road, but rival Miller stopped to assist Sainz when the second section of the stage resumed and dropped considerable time on the special.
"When you stay in the dust all the time, like Carlos did, accidents can happen," said Holowczyc. "There was a big hole in the river bed and maybe this was the problem. We had two slow punctures on the rear after about 25km. It was unbelievable. I thought that maybe Jean-Marc (Fortin) had done something with the valve when he changed the pressure. We touched nothing. We changed one wheel and then added air to the other tyre. After the next 30km it was going down again very slowly. The tyre looked like new, but maybe the construction was broken.
"We let Stéphane pass early in the stage. We attacked on the second part because we did not know that Miller and Sainz had stopped. We will look at the strategy for tomorrow because, for sure, the Volkswagen strategy will be to push like hell."
"Every day is a dramatic day on the Dakar," said team director Sven Quandt. "There is always something happening and today we were quite lucky, except that Stéphane could not pass Giniel. This was a bit strange for him to be behind Giniel for the whole day after catching up four minutes in the beginning."
Ricardo Leal Dos Santos and Paulo Fiùza started the day in a comfortable seventh overall, but the Portuguese crew could not afford any mistakes with Frenchman Christian Laveille not too far behind in eighth position. Dos Santos reached PC1 in a virtual sixth position and had slipped behind Holowczyc to seventh at the start of the neutralisation. When Sainz and Miller were delayed, Dos Santos stormed through to record the fifth fastest time.
Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt completed the 10th stage in 23rd overall from a starting position of 56 and climbed back to 21st overall before the start of the stage to San Juan. The Germans reached PC1 in 17th position, but clouted a rock at 178km, damaged the radiator and were forced to wait for the rapid assistance truck. Schott passed PC2 in 51st position at 16.21hrs and had lost over three hours to that point.
Andrea Mayer, Thomas Baumann and Phillip Beier began the 11th stage out of San Juan at 10.39hrs and 32nd on the road in the truck category. The trio finished the 10th special in 29th position in their rapid MAN assistance truck and were classified 32nd in the general standings in the truck category. They were tasked with helping with repairs to Schott’s damaged KS Tools-backed BMW X3 CC.
2011/01/13 | 22:21 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY