DAK Three surviving BMW X3s cross the Andes into Argentina

DAKAR RALLY 2009 (January 3rd-January 18th, 2009)

Leg 11: Copiapó - Fiambalá
Liaison, 680 km. Stage cancelled.

For immediate release
Wednesday, January 14th, 2009


· Marathon stage cancelled; Service crews en route to La Rioja

FIAMBALÁ (Argentina): There was no special stage competition for X-raid's Sails Capital Racing Team on day 11 of the 2009 Dakar Rally. Event officials had cancelled the short final stage in Chile between Copiapó and Fiambalá and made the leg into a liaison section across the Andes mountains and back into Argentina for the surviving teams.

Persistent fog had been forecast in the area around the bivouac in the Atacama desert and, with teams needing to cross the Andes after the special stage to reach Fiambalá in Argentina, this seemed the best option for the ASO to prevent delays and possible logistical problems.

It meant that X-raid's three surviving BMW X3 CCs, in the hands of René Kuipers, Leonid Novitskiy and Guerlain Chicherit, left the bivouac on a long road liaison. Instead of tackling a tricky stage in Chile, they headed directly for the frontier and followed the tracks that media and race officials had taken on a tiring bus transfer during the night.

The liaison route began on a hard gravel track, as the remaining cars, bikes and trucks wound their way through the foothills and between the towering peaks of the Chilean Andes. The border crossing was carved through a mountain pass, where media and officials had experienced icy temperatures and stunning, clear skies the previous evening.

Cars climbed through Trés Cruces and the track began to deteriorate as the route climbed to a peak of 4,748 meters above sea level in the stunning San Francisco Pass, which marked the frontier with Argentina. From there, the X-raid teams could benefit from a sealed asphalt surface through a huge flood plain and down into the valley of the Fiambalá River and the overnight halt without assistance.

This had been scheduled to be a Marathon stage on the 2009 Dakar Rally. Only the race truck crew, team director Sven Quandt and X-raid Russia team manager Marco Pastorino were permitted to access the Fiambalá bivouac.

The remaining of the team and the service crews of all the other teams in the rally had two days to reach the next bivouac at La Rioja, on a liaison which ran for 790km from Copiapó and used its own slightly lower passing across the spine of the Andes.

Tomorrow (Thursday) marks the second section of the Marathon stage and crews will need to ensure that they repaired their cars at Fiambalá in readiness for the 253km special stage that will reunite them with their service trucks at La Rioja in the Gran Chaco region of north-west Argentina at the foot of the Velasco mountains.

The stage starts a mere four kilometres from the overnight halt, but there will be a 261km liaison section to La Rioja before work can begin in earnest on the cars.

The stage heads back towards`the Andes for a pair of passage controls near Palo Blanco, before turning in an easterly direction and finishing at El Puesto. The final liaison passes Salado, Almogasta and Villa Mazan en route to La Rioja to the north of the Sierra de Velasco mountains at a height of 540 metres above sea level.

The town is better known for its cattle farming and agriculture and was the birthplace of former Argentine President Isabel Martinez de Perón.

Overall positions after leg 11 (leg 11 cancelled):
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)            38h 59m 02s
2. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)       39h 26m 33s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzevitz (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)  39h 40m 15s
4. Joan 'Nani' Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2)  40h 12m 15s
5. Robbie Gordon (USA)/Andy Grider (USA) Hummer (Open 1)             40h 33m 40s
6. Ivar Erik Tollefsen (N)/Quin Evans (GB) Nissan Navara (T1.2)            44h 13m 20s
7. Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL)/Jean-Marc Fortin (B) Nissan Navara (T1.2)           40h 50m 58s
8. René Kuipers (NL)/Filipe Palmeiro (P) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)             47h 00m 53s
9. Dieter Depping (D)/Timo Gottschalk (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)    47h 31m 36s

Other X-raid crews
12. Leonid Novitskiy (RUS)/Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)        52h 03m 56s
13. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Matthieu Baumel (F) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)         52h 31m 06s


Further information and photos are available at www.x-raid.de or contact Yvette Theisen at X-raid GmbH, Tel: + 49 (0) 6147 204670, E-mail: y.theisen@x-raid.de.

Date issued: 14/01/2009

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