CC Libyan desert takes its toll as Terranova leads after day seven


OILIBYA TUNISIA RALLY, April 22nd - May 2nd, 2009
FIA World Cup  for Cross-Country Rallies, round two

For immediate release
Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


·Terranova maintains outright lead from Laveille and Novitskiy
·Chicherit survives dramatic Libya stages to hold fifth place

QUARYAT (Libya): The X-raid team survived three days over the daunting Libyan stages of the OiLibya Tunisia Rally to hold an unofficial first, third and fifth positions in the general classification, after leg seven of the punishing 11-day event between Brack and Quaryat on Tuesday.

Argentina's Orlando Terranova maintained the outright lead from Team Dessoude rival Christian Laveille and X-raid Russia's Leonid Novitskiy, but the brutal nature of the terrain and the sheer length of the stages had taken its toll on the decimated entry list.

Stage six was cancelled because of fierce sand storms and Terranova duly began the seventh stage with an overall lead of 15m 49s over Frenchman Laveille, with X-raid team-mates Guerlain Chicherit and Novitskiy in third and fourth places. The leg included a 397km competitive section between Brack and Quaryat.

Twenty-seven cars began the special and the leading BMWs were running well until Chicherit was delayed with sensor problems. Terranova was the class of the field and quickly passed Laveille and stormed into an emphatic stage lead.

The Mendoza-based driver duly extended his overall advantage in the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies to over 33 minutes. At one point it was reported by event officials that he had been running 17km in front of his nearest rival on the stage. Frenchman Eric Vigouroux was eventually declared the unofficial stage winner by event officials.

"Guerlain, I believe, had a minor sensor problem and that meant that he could not run at full power today," said X-raid team director Sven Quandt. "But it was a good day for Orlando on a difficult special. We now have a strong position at the front of the field in what has become a long and difficult race and an excellent test for us."

The event crossed into Libya last Saturday, after three stages in Tunisia. Terranova took a 1m 40s lead over Novitskiy into the 288km competitive section between Ras El Oued and Dehibat, but Chicherit set the fastest time on the stage and clawed back just under two minutes of the time he had lost sportingly helping Jean-Louis Schlesser out of deep mud on Friday afternoon.

The Frenchman climbed back to fourth overall, but was baulked behind Christian Laveille for over 100km and the stage result could have been even better. "I wanted to drive fast and it was extremely frustrating," said Chicherit.

A long liaison steered teams across the border into Libya and  the overnight halt at Deri. Terranova maintained an overall 1m 39s lead, despite being beaten into third position by a mere one second on the special stage by Novitskiy.

"I didn't want to take any chances before the Marathon stage," admitted Terranova. "In 2008, we had a problem with the turbo in Libya and had to pull out of the race. This year I have had no problems."

Sunday was the longest stage of the entire event and included a 563km marathon section in a route of 624km into Oubari. Several crews, including members of the X-raid team, had problems during the punishing desert stage and Christian Laveille eventually won the special when Terranova stopped to assist a troubled Chicherit and Novitskiy.

Laveille beat Terranova by a mere 1m 27s and climbed to second overall in the general classification, but the Argentinean had extended his outright lead to 15m 49s.

Chicherit dropped 10 minutes to the stage winner and climbed to third overall and Novitskiy set the fourth fastest time and slipped a place on the leader board. Numerous back-markers spent the night in the desert and several arrived the following morning after an evening under the stars in the dunes.

"The stage was far too rocky in my opinion for a Marathon stage," said Sven Quandt. "Guerlain picked up three punctures in the first 30km and Leonid had two flat tyres. Orly stopped to held 'Chich' out of a sand bowl and also to help put Leonid back on his wheels after he rolled. But I was happy that we had survived the stage relatively unscathed."

The second half of the Marathon stage should have taken place on Monday and featured 308km of sandy competition between Oubari and Sebha, with a 110km liaison returning crews to Brack. After surviving sand storm conditions in Oubari, the decision was taken to cancel the special on safety grounds because of reduced visibility and teams arrived at Brack by convoy.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), competitors return to Tunisia and also tackle a 365km special stage between Gharbiyah and Nalut. This will be followed by a 106km liaison to the camp at Oueni.

OiLibya Tunisia Rally - overall positions after leg 7: Brack to Quaryat (unofficial @ 2.55pm):
1. Orlando Terranova (RA)/Filipe Palmeiro (P) BMW X3 CC  17h 38m 24s
2. Christian Laveille (F)/Arnaud Debron (F) Nissan Dessoude Proto  18h 11m 57s
3. Leonid Novitskiy (RUS)/Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS) BMW X3 CC  18h 31m 37s
4. Pascal Thomasse (F)/Pascal Larroque (F) MD Rallye Buggy     18h 42m 58s
5. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC   18h 50m 24s
6. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Paul Forthomme (F) Schlesser Porsche-Buggy 19h 17m 10s, etc


Further information and photos are available at www.x-raid.de or contact Stefanie Marquard at X-raid GmbH, Tel: + 49 (0) 6147 204670, E-mail: s.marquard@x-raid.de.


Date issued: 28/04/2009

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