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UAE Desert Challenge 2007 Special-Newssection (FIA Cross Country Worldcup)

This is the single-news section of the special of the UAE Desert Challenge 2007, last round of the FIA Worldcup for Cross Country Rallys. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

UAE Desert Challenge: Good and bad day for X-Raid BMW - Nobre rolls.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his new Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner maintained the overall lead in the 2007 UAE Desert Challenge for the AlgoDyne Green Power Racing Team with a stunning victory on the first 272.50km desert selective section on Monday. The X-raid crew finished the section 23 seconds clear of 2006 Dakar winners and defending UAE Desert Challenge champions Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard in a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, with French team mates Guerlain Chicherit and Matthieu Baumel taking the sixth fastest time to hold a similar position in the overall standings.

"I had no problem with being the first car on the road," said Al-Attiyah. "But Tina did a great job on the road book and it is fantastic to win a desert stage on the Desert Challenge. We will start from the same position on Tuesday, but I expect the stages to be more difficult from now on."

Brazilian BMW privateers Paulo Nobre and Filipe Palmeiro were running eighth overall at the 59km point, but rolled their car before the first passage control, although the damage was not extensive and the crew managed to continue through the stage at a slower pace.

Frenchman Bruno Saby and X-raid co-driver Alain Guehennec were forced to stop seven kilometres into the section with mechanical problems. Saby, winner of the UAE Desert Challenge in 1996, was towed back to the stage start by race organisers and X-raid management took the decision to return the car to Dubai rather than take it to the bivouac and try to restart on Tuesday morning.

"Bruno was unfortunate today, but Nasser and Guerlain did superb jobs for the team," said X-raid team director Sven Quandt. "We proved that winning the super special on Sunday was just the start and to follow that up with a desert stage win was a great performance. Paulo rolled, but the car was not too badly damaged and he was able to continue."

Al-Attiyah had been fastest on the opening super special stage and was the first car into the section, which can work for a team in terms of the lack of dust and against a team if the navigation is difficult. He pressed home his advantage from the outset and had moved into a virtual 17-second lead over Spaniard Carlos Sainz by the 59km point, with Chicherit running in fifth place, a mere two seconds behind Peterhansel.

The Qatari continued to hold the advantage through PC1 at 91.90km, although Sainz had whittled the defending FIA Middle East rally champion’s lead down to just one second. Chicherit had fallen behind the leading two Mitsubishis, but was holding his own against Roma and was running 19 seconds ahead of the Spaniard.

By the 122km point, Sainz was the fastest driver on the stage and had edged eight seconds ahead of the leading X-raid BMW. He and Al-Attiyah were in a class of their own, with defending Dakar champion Stéphane Peterhansel trailing in third place, 58 seconds adrift. Sainz lost vital minutes on the tracks leading to the second passage control and leader Al-Attiyah duly edged further away from Peterhansel to start the final section of the selective 1m 19s in front of the Frenchman.

By kilometre 206, Al-Attiyah had extended his overall lead to 1m 44s, while Alphand and Peterhansel were locked in a duel for second. Al-Attiyah maintained an overall lead of 1m 09s through the third and final passage control, but, at the 234km point, Peterhansel had reduced the Qatari’s advantage to 43 seconds, with Chicherit running as the fifth car on the stage.

Al-Attiyah maintained the lead to the stage finish, although his time came under pressure from Alphand towards the end when the Qatari lost precious seconds in a tricky off-road section.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) will mark the first loop stage around the Moreeb bivouac. The selective section starts 54km from the bivouac and runs for 328.30km. The first bike is due to start at 06.50hrs. There will be four passage controls at 98.70km, 162.85km for optional service, 195.80km and 279.00km, before the section finishes in Moreeb. Dunes, fast gatch tracks and sandy trails will be prevalent on this section. As the morning temperatures rise, so the sand becomes softer and this will make the section more difficult for the cars running behind than the bikes in the cooler air of the early morning.

2007/10/29 | 13:57 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid

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