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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: X-Raid´s Al Attiyah slips to fourth overall.

Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel set the fastest time on the section - the first by anyone other than Al-Attiyah on the event this year - after taking advantage of the Qatari’s misfortune later in the stage. The Frenchman’s team mate Luc Alphand inherited the overall lead.

Peterhansel beat the leading X-raid driver by 33m 08s, as Al-Attiyah sustained rear differential problems and slipped to fourth overall behind the factory Mitsubishis and Sainz’s Volkswagen. The BMW X3CC driver was forced to complete the final agonizing kilometres in baking heat across atrocious sandy terrain in just two-wheel drive and duly set the sixth fastest time.

"I am just very disappointed for this to happen" said Al-Attiyah. "But that’s what makes this sport so exciting and so unpredictable. It was so difficult to reach the end of the stage in two-wheel drive, but we still have fourth place and we again proved that we are a serious threat to the more established teams."

French team mates Guerlain Chicherit and Matthieu Baumel started the selective in sixth position, anxious to avoid the heat exhaustion problems that had plagued the driver on the second stage on Tuesday and caused the retirement of Mitsubishi’s Joan ‘Nani’ Roma. Chicherit was running 15th fastest early in the stage, before moving up to the order as the section progressed. The Frenchman eventually lost his sixth position in the overall standings to the UAE’s Yahya Al-Helai and fell towards a chasing pack of drivers that included Spaniard José-Luis Monterde and Leonid Nouitsky.

Brazilian BMW privateers Paulo Nobre and Filipe Palmeiro began the day in 26th overall, a mere 2m 31s behind 25th-placed Mark Powell, although event organisers slotted the Brazilian into seventh on the road. He moved up the leaderboard and was running sixth fastest at PC2 before completing the stage in an excellent seventh position.

"It has been a disappointing end to the day for us," said team director Sven Quandt. "Nasser was again in a good pace and we were running well at the front of the field, but then he had this rear differential problem and it meant finishing the stage in two-wheel drive. We are too far back now to perhaps catch the leaders, but we have shown that the car is very competitive against the factory teams and Nasser can go out tomorrow and try his best again. Paulo had a good stage today too."

Today’s special began 41km north of Mizaira on the road to Madinat Zayed, the birthplace of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and both the first and second passage controls skirted the Gayathi road. Of the original 43 starters in the car category, 39 started leg three and Al-Attiyah lost his stage lead before the 29km point. Alphand held a virtual advantage of 36 seconds over Carlos Sainz and had extended that to 1m 08s by PC1.

Sainz passed the X-raid driver just before PC1 and the leading quartet - that also included Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel - headed towards the second passage control, with Alphand holding the stage advantage and Al-Attiyah maintaining the overall rally lead.

At the 107km point, Alphand had a lead of just over two minutes over Sainz, but he, the Spaniard and Al-Attiyah were running together on the stage, making it impossible for one driver to claim a big advantage. Chicherit was down in 15th at PC1, but his pace improved over the subsequent kilometres.

The trio arrived at the third passage control on each other’s coat tails; Alphand passing the checkpoint a mere two seconds ahead of Sainz and three in front of the Qatari, but he had started third on the road and had, thus, eaten away at just over four minutes of Al-Attiyah’s 7m 20s overall lead. Nobre was running in seventh position, Chicherit in 11th.

By km 208, Alphand’s virtual stage lead over Sainz was 2m 11s, although Al-Attiyah had managed to sneak passed the Spaniard and attempted to reduce Alphand’s leading margin over the closing 69km of the gruelling sandy special. But Alphand had been delayed for around four minutes by the fourth passage control and Al-Attiyah found himself first on the road again, albeit running 1m 38s behind Sainz in virtual time and in third place on the stage.

Between PC4 and the 238km point, Al-Attiyah lost the overall rally lead and over 11 minutes of his hard-earned advantage, as eventual stage winner Peterhansel, Sainz and Alphand passed the hapless Qatari. Nasser was delayed still further near the end with ongoing rear differential problems to cap a disappointing day for the X-raid team.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the longest of the selective sections and the third and final Moreeb loop, which has been the most difficult of all the specials in recent years, with its punishing sand dune and soft sand that swallows errant rally cars.

The 467.42km day commences with a six-kilometre run out to the stage start from 06.00hrs, with the first bike due on stage at 06.10hrs. The 339.22km selective section includes four passage controls at 80.15km, a bike refuelling point and PC2 at 157.75km, a third PC at 238.07km and a final PC at 267.38km. A liaison section of 122.20km steers crews back to the Moreeb bivouac for the last time.

2007/10/31 | 17:02 CET | Editor: MR/HS/X-Raid

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