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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: Sensational Al Attiyah extends X-Raid´s Lead.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his new Swedish co-driver Tina Thoerner set a third successive fastest time for the AlgoDyne Green Power Racing Team in the first of three loop selective sections around the Moreeb bivouac in the UAE Desert Challenge on Tuesday. The flying pair duly extended their overall lead to exactly 7m 20s over Frenchman Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard, the defending UAE Desert Challenge champions.

The Qatari driver began leg two’s 328.30km timed selective section 26 seconds ahead of former Dakar winner Alphand and first on the road for the second successive day. But he lost the lead to the Frenchman before the 37km waypoint and the remainder of the stage was spent fighting to stay ahead of a barrage of competition from the factory Volkswagen and Mitsubishi teams. But Alphand lost vital time near the finish with transmission-related problems, Al-Attiyah regained the lead and extended his overall advantage in the six-day event to 7m 20s after another classy performance.

"I did not push too hard on the first section this morning and Luc was driving like hell," said Al-Attiyah. "I have never seen a stage like this one before. The sand was so soft, the dunes were difficult and there were some sand holes. You had to be very careful indeed. I think Luc had some problems near the finish, but I decided to push very hard towards the end and the strategy worked. Our car was perfect today. No problems. We have a nice lead, but there is a long way to go. Tina did a fantastic job again today with the road book. Tonight we will work on a strategy for the next stage. We will be leading the way again, but that is not a problem."

French team mates Guerlain Chicherit and Matthieu Baumel started the selective section in sixth place, sandwiched between Carlos Sainz and Joan ‘Nani’ Roma, and eventually slipped down the leaderboard after slowing and losing time during the morning with ongoing overheating problems. They were in 10th place at PC4 and finished the stage in eighth.

Brazilian BMW privateers Paulo Nobre and Filipe Palmeiro managed to finish Monday’s selective section with a damaged antenna and minor damage to their BMW X3 CC, but the X-raid mechanics repaired the car at the bivouac and the Brazilian was permitted to restart 10th on the road. He had been classified 30th overall on day one and the accident cost him around 2h 25m. He was holding 22nd position at PC3 today. Frenchman Bruno Saby’s retirement on Monday was confirmed as being caused by an air intake problem to the engine in the third official X-raid BMW X3 CC.

"This was another superb stage for Nasser and a third win for X-raid," said a delighted team director Sven Quandt. "Nasser is a top class driver and he drove a superb stage for us. He is in a good position for the next stage, because he has enough of a lead for the others to catch him up. I told Guerlain to slow down today and make sure that he reaches the finish, when we realised at service that he had an overheating problem. The important thing was for him to reach the end of the stage."

Of the 43 cars that started the opening desert selective section on Monday, 40 began this morning, and it was Alphand who set the pace through the early kilometres. Last year’s UAE Desert Challenge winner had passed Al-Attiyah and gained 2m 05s by the first passage control and 2m 42s by PC2. The pair were comfortably quicker than the rest of the field on this challenging desert section held in sweltering conditions, where the threat of dehydration was paramount.

Chicherit held sixth for much of the section, but slipped to seventh between PC2 (162.85km) and PC3 (195.80km) with the engine temperature running too high for his liking, as Carlos Sainz, Stéphane Peterhansel and Giniel de Villiers shadowed the two leaders. Nobre lost time over the early kilometres and was running down in 26th position at the first passage control, but was up to 25th at 134km and 23rd by PC2.

By km 245, Alphand was 2m 50s ahead of the leading X-raid driver with Sainz and Peterhansel struggling to stay in contention. The section headed towards more tricky sand dunes, but Al-Attiyah sensationally hit the front again before the fourth and final passage control, when Alphand lost vital time with his gearbox woes.

The Qatari repassed the Frenchman on the stage and headed into the closing kilometres with a virtual 15-second lead on the day, but Chicherit was losing vital seconds and slipped to eighth on the stage. Al-Attiyah was the first driver to the 308km point, 5m 07s ahead of the troubled Alphand, and went on clinch his third consecutive stage victory for the X-raid team to cap a sensational start to the team’s UAE Desert Challenge campaign.

2007/10/30 | 20:27 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid

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