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Transiberico Rali: Al-Helai and Al-Kendi miss out on FIA World titles.

The UAE Rally Team of Yayha Al-Helai and Khaled Al-Kendi completed the gruelling 2009 Transiberico Rally, the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, in 19th overall and narrowly missed out on securing the FIA World Cup and FIA T2 titles. But they were on course for a top 10 finish until they were awarded a two-hour time penalty by event officials for a minor speeding infringement on the final morning. This dropped them from 10th to 19th place.

At the wheel of their Powertec Performance Engineering-prepared Nissan Patrol, the Emirati duo were always in a competitive pace against the cream of the world’s cross-country drivers.

But Al-Helai missed out on the T2 title to Artem Varentsov, despite beating the Russian comfortably on the actual special stages after four days of intense competition in dust and baking heat on the remote off-road trails in rural Porttugal and Spain. Had it not been for the time penalty he would have comfortably finished in front of his T2 rival.

The FIA World Cup title fell to eventual Transiberico Rally winner Guerlain Chicherit, the winner of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, from the BMW X-raid team.

"It was disappointing to see the top 10 finish end in 19th position with the time penalty," said Al-Helai. "But it has been a fantastic experience for Khaled and myself and we proved that we were a competitive force against the world’s best drivers on these tricky European stages."

Al-Helai made a cautious start to his first European event and was classified 25th through the short opening super special stage last Wednesday. His main T2 rival Artem Varentsov was down in 34th position.

But he moved up to 21st overall with the 21st fastest time after the first of the longer selective sections between Estoril and the opening overnight halt at Castelo Branco. X-raid’s Joan Roma held an early lead in his BMW X3 CC, before succumbing to technical problems and Filipe Campos inherited the overall lead.

Al-Helai began the second leg between Castelo Branco in Portugal and Merida in Spain with a three-minute advantage over his Russian rival for the T2 title. Varentsov managed to claw back 17 seconds through the first of two stages during leg two, but Al-Helai and Al-Kendi were in fine form through the fourth selective section and set the 12th fastest time in their Powertec-run Nissan Patrol.

The performance moved them up to 15th in the overall classification heading into the third leg between Merida in Spain and Beja in Portugal. The Emiratis now had a near seven-minute advantage over the Russian driver and were in a good position to make a challenge for the FIA World Cup’s T2 title.

Problems for overnight leader Filipe Campos and third-placed Carlos Sousa pushed Al-Helai closer to a points-scoring finish in the overall standings after the fifth selective section between Merida and Beja in leg three.

Yayha set the 19th fastest time on the dusty and winding stage, but Guilherme Spinelli’s withdrawal through illness also helped his cause and the Nissan Patrol driver found himself up to 12th overall heading into the second selective of the day. Varentsov held 13th position, albeit 8m 50s behind Al-Helai, but he was still in a position to pip the Emirati to the T2 title if the positions remained the same over the final three timed tests.

He was pipped by the Russian through the sixth stage on Saturday afternoon and headed into the final leg 10 minutes in front of his arch rival and in 10th position in the overall standings. The Emirati faced the unusual situation of maybe finishing second in the FIA World Cup standings and being edged out of the T2 title by a single point.

He managed to set the 16th fastest time through the seventh stage and looked set to confirm his top 10 finish, but he was deemed to have contravened a speeding regulation on Sunday morning and was duly awarded a two-hour time penalty, which dropped him below the T2 title-winning Russian and into 19thplace.

SS8 Classification (159,72 km)

01) Filipe Campos I X-Raid BMW X3CC I 1.42.18
02) Carlos Sousa I Mitsubishi Racing Lancer I at 1.44
03) Nicolas Misslin I Mitsubishi Pajero MPR13 I at 3.35
04) Nani Roma I X-Raid BMW X3CC I at 8.24
05) Alexander Mironenko I Nissan Navara I at 9.24
06) Guerlain Chicherit I X-Raid BMW X3CC I at 11.08
07) Rodolphe Deveaux I Mitsubishi Pajero MPR13 I at 13.09
08) Bernardo Moniz da Maia I X-Raid BMW X3CC I at 14.44
09) Hélder Oliveira I Nissan Pathfinder I at 15.45
10) José Dinis Lucas I Mitsubishi Pajero DiD I at 16.06

Overall after SS8

01) Guerlain Chicherit/Tina Thorner I X-Raid BMW X3CC I 15.11.08
02) Hélder Oliveira/Filipe Palmeiro I Nissan Pathfinder I at 1.16.27
03) Bernardo Moniz da Maia/Joana Sottomayor I X-Raid BMW X3CC I at 1.32.14
04) Rodolphe Deveaux/Luís Ramalho I Mitsubishi Pajero MPR13 I at 1.50.08
05) José Dinis Lucas/Luís Tirano I Mitsubishi Pajero DiD I at 2.21.47
06) Lino Carapeta/Rui António I QT Wildcat I at 2.24.34
07) Fernando André/Luís Gomes I Renault Mégane I at 2.27.54
08) Alexander Mironenko/Sergey Lebedev I Nissan Navara I at 2.39.44
09) Pedro Silva Nunes/Paulo Torres I Mitsubishi Pajero I at 2.49.02
10) Artem Varentsov/Roman Elgin I Toyota Land Cruiser 100 I at 3.15.08

2009/06/23 | 13:28 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Neil Perkins

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