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DAK Nasser Al Attiyah forced to withdraw from Dakar Rally

X-RAID TEAM NEWS
DAKAR RALLY 2009 (January 3rd-January 18th, 2009)

Leg 6: San Rafaël - Mendoza
Liaison, 76 km; special, 178 km; liaison, 361 km; total, 615 km.

For immediate release
Thursday, January 8th, 2009

X-RAID'S DAKAR RALLY LEADER NASSER AL-ATTIYAH
EXCLUDED AFTER MISSING SERIES OF WAY-POINTS

·Terranova and Kuipers move up to ninth and 10th for X-raid
·Chicherit delayed with broken radiator; Novitskiy in deep mud

MENDOZA (Argentina): X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner set the fastest time on the shortened 178km special stage from San Rafaël to Mendoza, but they missed a series of hidden way-points through the sand dunes early in the stage and the unfortunate penalty was exclusion from the rally.

Al-Attiyah had comfortably been the fastest driver on the event this year and had extended his overall rally lead to 7m 32s before the official penalty was awarded. It was a bitterly disappointing end to a superb week in control of the event for the Trebur-based X-raid team.

"The problem started last night when we found a lot of grass in the radiator and the car was getting very hot," reflected a disappointed team director Sven Quandt. "We did as much work on the car as we could last night, but we could not change everything.

"This morning at the start of the sand dunes, the temperature began to climb immediately and Nasser had to decide whether to go in the sand or drive around. He decided to go around and, in so doing, he did not pass all the way-points. That meant that he was automatically vulnerable to a time penalty. But he missed too many way-points and the penalty in the rally regulations is exclusion from the race."

Today's special stage was originally shortened from 394km to 232km and then to 178km because of the risk of standing water caused by recent rainfall. Event officials sent a recce car into the stage on Wednesday to monitor a river crossing which was already 80cm high and the decision was taken to skip the section on safety grounds, hence the stage distance being reduced still further.

X-raid's mechanics had worked into the small hours of the morning to give Al-Attiyah's car a thorough check over after the punishing section through the dunes. The radiator was replaced and all aspects of the cooling system were given a detailed examination before the restart.

Local hero Orlando Terranova and French co-driver Alain Guehennec had damaged their radiator in a hole on the stage into San Rafael, before experiencing cooling problems. The car was repaired overnight, but the Mendoza driver struggled to the 24th fastest time through the dunes to PC1. He eventually reached the finish in 20th and was greeted in his home town of Mendoza by the news that he had climbed back into the top 10.

Dutchman René Kuipers and Portuguese co-driver Filipe Palmeiro were 22nd through the first passage control and completed the section in a highly-respectable 21st on the driver's first full Dakar. The result was sufficient to propel Kuipers into 11th overall and he moved up to 10th when Al-Attiyah was excluded.

Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the stage in 14th position on the road, but struck a tree in the special and damaged the car's radiator. They were forced to wait for X-raid rapid T4 assistance truck before they could continue and eventually dropped three hours to the leaders and finished the stage in 49th position.

X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and Oleg Tyupenkin restarted on Thursday morning from 20th in the overall classification after getting stuck for a time on the run into San Rafael. They became bogged down in a deep mud hole 11km into the special this morning at the same point as Luc Alphand was stuck and were badly delayed.

Tomorrow (Friday) marks the crossing into Chile and the most varied of the days in this year's Dakar Rally timetable. Teams leave Mendoza and head into an 80km liaison section, before embarking upon a punishing 419km special stage over twisty mountain tracks in the Andes.

The stage starts near Nueva Californi and winds its way in a north-westerly direction towards the first and second passage controls, before heading south to PC3 and on to a finish at the tourist town of Uspallata in the Andes foothills.

Service vehicles, rally cars and support trucks will cross the border on a sealed surface road at a height of 3,275 metres above sea level between Punta de Vacas and Puenta del Inca, before making the steep descent on to the coastal plain into Chile. The towering peak of Aconcagua, rising to 6959 metres, will be a spectacular sight to the right and is the highest peak in the western hemisphere.

The entire Dakar caravan will arrive at the overnight halt in Valparaiso on Chile's Pacific Coast after a further 317km liaison section. The important Chilean port will also host the event's traditional rest day.

Overall positions on leg 6 (unofficial @ 17.50hrs):
1. *Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)  2h 07m 26s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzevitz (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2) 2h 12m 33s
3. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2) 2h 12m 53s
4. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)  2h 16m 03s
5. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2) 2h 20m 40s
6. Joan 'Nani' Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2) 2h 21m 46s
* subject to time penalties being awarded

Other X-raid crews
20. Orlando Terranova (RA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)              3h 18m 15s
21. René Kuipers (NL)/Filipe Palmeiro (P) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)               3h 18m 54s
49. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Matthieu Baumel (F) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)  5h 02m 18s
TBA. Leonid Novitskiy (RUS)/Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS) BMW X3 CC (T1.2) TBA

Overall positions after leg 6:
1. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzevitz (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)  20h 59m 34s
2. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)            21h 07m 13s
3. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)       21h 17m 25s
4. Joan 'Nani' Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2)   21h 30m 52s
5. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2)  21h 34m 01s
6. Robbie Gordon (USA)/Andy Grider (USA) Hummer (Open 1)             22h 11m 21s
7. Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL)/Jean-Marc Fortin (B) Nissan Navara (T1.2)           23h 32m 49s
8. Ivar Erik Tollefsen (N)/Quin Evans (GB) Nissan Navara (T1.2)            23h 45m 31s
9. Orlando Terranova (RA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)            23h 50m 09s
10. René Kuipers (NL)/Filipe Palmeiro (P) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)             25h 19m 13s

Other X-raid crews
TBA. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Matthieu Baumel (F) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)            TBA
TBA. Leonid Novitskiy (RUS)/Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)        TBA

Ends

Further information and photos are available at www.x-raid.de or contact Yvett

Date issued: 08/01/2009

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