CC Guerlain Chicherit claims superb victory in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge


For immediate release
Friday, March 27th, 2009


·Chicherit and Thörner lead from start to finish in BMW X3CC
·Sven Quandt delighted with new Chicherit/Thörner partnership

ABU DHABI (UAE): Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit claimed the biggest win of his rallying career, when he and Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner gave the X-raid team a start-to-finish victory in the punishing 2009 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The opening round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies moved from its usual November date to take place in late March and was based entirely in the emirate of Abu Dhabi for the first time since it joined the FIA series in 1993.

The Frenchman was totally unfazed by the extreme desert temperatures and gruelling desert terrain through the desolate Empty Quarter of the UAE's largest emirate and guided his Trebur-built BMW X3 CC to a superb victory. His winning margin over the UAE's Yayha Al Helai was 2h 23m 45s, when the event reaches a conclusion at the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMCS).

"This is a great feeling to win this rally," said Chicherit. "Tina did a great job and the mechanics worked so hard to make sure the car was always ready for the stage every morning. This result is for my team."

"There was a sand storm on the final day for around 50% of the stage and the wind meant that visibility was down to just metres in places. We stopped early in the stage to let some pressure out of the tyres and then ran with the Buggy (Glenn Reid) for about an hour. Then, I heard a noise on the car and stopped at the final PC just to check everything was okay. But we were okay."

"This is another great win for our team and a very useful major test for Guerlain," said a delighted team director Sven Quandt. "It is his biggest win so far and it was a great chance for him to gain experience from being first on the road. The new partnership with Tina worked very well and this all bodes well for the future."

The Frenchman was the class of the field through the opening two-kilometre super special stage, held behind the Abu Dhabi Marina Mall, and leapt into an 11-second advantage heading into the opening 270km desert stage between Al Dafra and a finish to the north of Liwa.

He encountered no problems on the first desert selective section and reached the remote Tal Mureeb bivouac with a lead of nearly 20 minutes, after setting the fastest time of the day.

"I was very happy to get the first desert stage out of the way with a good lead," said Chicherit. "It was not easy. It was my first stage with Tina. She is very good, but I have had pace notes in French for many years and, a couple of times, I heard the wrong note in English and made a small mistake."

Despite minor problems with an overheating central differential, Chicherit cruised still further ahead through the first of three loop stages in the Rub Al Khali and extended his advantage over local driver Yayha Al Helai to 50m 28s.

"The first 210km were very good, but then the differential put itself into 'security mode' and we had the alarm," added Chicherit. "I stopped a couple of times. It was a very hard stage. It was great experience for me to be opening the road. It doesn't happen very often."

The X-raid driver was again a class of the field through the third section around the Tal Mureeb camp and his lead had grown to 1h 57m 51s by the return to the overnight halt after the most difficult stage of the entire event. This was despite suffering a bout of 'dune sickness' for large sections of the stage.

"It was a really tough job to reach the end. I was driving so well until the assistance point and I was pushing hard. After that I started to feel a bit sick and I had a big mental fight to keep it going. I think it was a combination of the heat and the motion of being, like in a boat, in the dunes. The car was perfect, the mechanics did a great job and Tina was superb. I was not in a good shape and she encouraged me to the finish."

The fourth stage was shorter and more straightforward, although shifting sand and strong winds hampered visibility to an extent in places. Nevertheless, the X-raid team's overall advantage grew to 2h 21m 42s.

"It was tricky in a couple of places for about six or eight kilometres and I took my time to make sure we did not make a mistake. I started to feel a little bit sick again and decided to stop at the CP3, the service, for around 25 minutes to take a break and let my blood cool down. It was a good decision. We had a good lead anyway."

Violent winds and shifting sand were prevalent in the Tal Mureeb and Humeem areas during the final stage, but the decision was taken to run the final selective section.

Chicherit noticeably eased his pace to conserve his lead and was able to stop to check tyre pressures and a noise at the back of the car, before reaching the finish to claim the winner's laurels.

Overall positions after Leg 5:

1. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC   20h 54m 47s
2. Yayha Al Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol  23h 19m 32s
3. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Haleem Bin Zayed (UAE) Nissan Patrol 24h 37m 07s
4. Ali Al Shawi (UAE)/Ahmad Malik (UAE) Nissan Patrol 26h 17m 54s 
5. David Mabbs (GB)/Xavier Caminada (F) Toyota FJ Cruiser 26h 40m 23s
6. Joseph Rosso (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Nissan Pathfinder 29h 54m 17s


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: 27/03/2009

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