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2010-01-14 07:23

Peter Burroughes

It was a BMW day on the Dakar Rally in Argentina on Wednesday. France’s Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thorner of Sweden gave BMW its first stage win of this year’s event when they brought their X3 home in a time of 2h 34m 51s.  

Second, 30 seconds behind after the 220-km special stage between Santiago and San Juan, were Argentinean Orlando Terranova and France’s Pascal Maimon in a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Volkswagen Race Touaregs filled the next three places.  

Defending champions Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz had a good day and finished just nine seconds behind the Mitsubishi in third place.  

Fourth, 1m 41 s behind Chicherit, were Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk of Germany, followed by team-mates Mark Miller of America and South Africa’s Ralph Pitchford, 2m 50s in arrears.

Spanish pair Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (VW Race Touareg) lead overall for the seventh day in a row, but the gap between them and team-mates Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Gottschalk has been reduced to 4m 28s with three special stages remaining before the finish of the 9 000-km rally in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

Volkswagens remain 1-2-3 overall for the seventh successive day, with Miller and Pitchford, second overall last year, still in third place. French pair Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (BMW X3) are fourth overall, 2h 09m 53s behind Sainz after finishing today’s stage sixth.  Chicherit and Thorner are fifth, 2h 23m 40s in arrears.

Today’s stage was similar to yesterday’s, with fast, winding tracks and mostly downhill.  

The battle for overall honours between Sainz and Al-Attiyah has intensified and the Qatari was able to more than halve the gap to his team-mate. Both hit trees in heavy dust while closely following another competitor and were fortunate not to crash.

A navigational error put a halt to Spaniard Marc Coma’s fine run on his KTM in the bike category and allowed BMW to score its first win on two wheels this year. Dutchman Frans Verhoeven won the stage by just three seconds from American Jonah Street (KTM) and 1m 25s
ahead of Frenchman Alain Duclos (KTM). Pal-Anders Ullevalseter of Norway (KTM) was fourth, 2m 26s behind Verhoeven.

Cyril Despres of France (KTM) retains his comfortable overall lead, 1h 20m 10s ahead of Ullevalseter, despite finishing seventh on stage 11 and losing almost two minutes to the Norwegian.  Chile’s Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) remains in third place after finishing fifth on Wednesday’s stage.     

Stage 12 on Thursday is from San Juan to San Rafael in Argentina and, at 476 km, is the third longest stage of the rally. The early part of the route is tracks cut by rios and surrounded by canyons and “fairy chimneys”. After some 200 km of the special stage, competitors will briefly use the road to avoid a protected natural site. The second part is exclusively sandy with many jumps.

Overall (cars):
1 Carlos Sainz (Spain) VW Race Touareg, 39h 16m 55s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) VW Race Touareg, +4m 28s
3 Mark Miller (America) VW Race Touareg, +23m 50s
4 Stephane Peterhansel (France) BMW X3, +2h 09m 53s
5 Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW X3, +2h 23m 40s

Overall (bikes):
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM, 42h 05m 10s
2 Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM, +1h 20m 54s
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Chile) Aprilia, 1h 23m 34s
4 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Yamaha, +1h 30m 35s
5 Alain Duclos (France) KTM, 1h 54m 39s

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