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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: Luc Alphand retired after suspension problems.

Another drama-packed day in the desert of the United Arab Emirates has produced further changes at the top of the 2007 UAE Desert Challenge leaderboard. Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart’s Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France) profited from the longest stage of the week to move into the lead, 9 minutes 45 second of Carlos Sainz, with one day of competition remaining. However, the team lost its chance of repeating its one-two finish in Dubai last year when Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) were forced to stop after damaging their front right suspension arm.

The event continues to be marked by extreme heat and temperatures approaching the 40?C mark have taken their toll on many crews, although Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart’s year-long physical fitness programme has helped the team’s crews take the punishment in their stride.

The heat is one thing, though, and the terrain is another and most of the front-runners found themselves in trouble at some point during today’s 339km test. In addition to the unhappy Luc Alphand, the rival Carlos Sainz (Spain) lost considerable ground after falling into a pothole, while Stéphane Peterhansel also lost a little time when he became stuck in sand shortly after the early morning start. "I made a mistake over a dune about 20km into the stage and it took us four or five minutes to clear the car, by which time Al Attiyah (Qatar) and Luc had passed us" related the Frenchman at the finish. "Once we were running again, we managed to catch Luc and the two of us ran together for about 200km."

Co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret takes up the story: "Suddenly, as we were picking up speed on a flat portion between two rows of dunes, we saw Luc’s car fall into a big pothole which ripped off his front right suspension. We pulled up alongside and I spotted flames coming from his car, no doubt due to hydraulic fluid leaking onto the brake disc. When that happens, it’s vital to react immediately so I jumped out of our car with the extinguisher and thankfully managed to put out the flames before they had spread too far. Hazards like the hole which caught out Luc and Gilles are one of the biggest difficulties we face on this sort of terrain because it’s impossible for the roadbook to warn you of everything when you are navigating off-road between GPS points. You’ve just got to be as vigilant as you can."

After ensuring that their team-mates were unhurt, Stéphane and Jean-Paul continued and very soon spotted Carlos Sainz stopped on the stage after suffering a similar fate to that which had halted Luc Alphand. They then caught Nasser Al Attiyah. "I slipped in behind Nasser and stayed on his tail to the finish," continued Stéphane. "He wasn’t going all that quickly, but there was no point in taking any risks now that I was in the lead on paper. Are we heading for a fourth win on this event? As we have seen today, anything can happen on this sort of rally and there are still 287km of stages to come, so it’s far too early to be thinking in terms of victory..."

The menu of the final leg (Friday) features another tough day of competition including two stages of 123.80km and 163.80km for a total competitive distance of 287.60km. Crews then face a 45.40km road section which will take them to the afternoon’s finish ceremony at the International Marine Club in Dubai.

2007/11/01 | 14:26 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Volkswagen

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