• Fastest time on opening section for Carlos Sainz
• Al-Attiyah loses four minutes with a puncture
CENTRAL EUROPE RALLY (April 19th-26th, 2008) Dakar Series – round 1
Leg 1: Budapest, Hungary - Baia Mare, Romania: liaison, 58km, special, 63km; liaison, 410km; total, 531 km.
The.AlgoDyne Green Power Racing Team held 11th, 13th and 16th positions in the new Central Europe Rally after the opening 63km selective section to the east of Budapest in Hungary on Sunday.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz and French co-driver Michel Périn held the outright lead with a fastest time of 39m 56s, as teams taking part in the first event in the new Dakar Series headed across the border into Romania for the long road section to Baia Mare on Sunday evening. American Robby Gordon and co-driver Andy Grider were second overall.
The French duo of Guerlain Chcherit and Matthieu Baumel were the first of the X-raid crews in 11th place in their Trebur-built BMW X3CC, with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner 1m 09s behind in 13th overall. Bruno Saby and Alain Guehennec held 16th position in the third X3CC.
In dry and dusty conditions, the stage was narrow, twisty and bumpy in places and ideally suited to the nimble Buggy-type cars, but the X-raid team is well in touch and will analyse the strategy for the remaining days on Sunday evening in Baia Mare. Leading cars left the start at three-minute intervals and Frenchman Stéphane
Peterhansel was the first driver to the opening passage control, although Sainz held the early advantage with a fastest time of 21m 13s at the split, closely followed by Gordon in 21m 38s.
Al-Attiyah punctured and dropped four minutes to the leading Spaniard and crossed the PC in 25m 14s in his BMW X3CC. Chicherit held 12th position at the opening control in 22m 58s, with Saby down in 18th place and Al-Attiyah pushed down to 21st.
"It was a narrow, twisty stage with several bumpy sections that really favoured the Buggy-type cars," said X-raid team director Sven Quandt. "That was one of the reasons Robby Gordon was so fast in the Hummer. Nasser had a puncture before the first PC, but he set a very encouraging split on the second section and that bodes well for the next stage.
"Guerlain complained that it was difficult to pass in the dusty conditions, but we are still in a good position and will discuss our tactics later this evening for the next stage. It is very tight among the leading drivers and there is still a long way to go."
Tomorrow (Monday) teams will leave the service park on the Bvd. Unirii in Baia Mare (translated as Big Mine) and tackle a 152km loop stage along narrow tracks around the former gold mining town.
Baia Mare is the largest conurbation in the developing north of Romania and was a former base for the Romanian round of the FIA European Rally Championship in the 1990s. It is surrounded by the Ignis and Gutai mountains in the scenic Maramures region of one of Eastern Europe’s newly-emerging countries.
Several sections in Romania have been cancelled in the area around Sovata because of heavy snowfalls, but the second section promises to be treacherous nonetheless. There will also be a liaison section of 140km in a total route for the day of 292km. The Central Europe Rally will reach a conclusion near the shores of Lake Balaton on Saturday, April 26th.
2008 Central Europe Rally – positions after leg 1 (unofficial):
1.Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Perin (F) Volkswagen Touareg 39m 56s
2. Robby Gordon (USA)/Andy Grider (USA) Hummer 40m 37s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 40m 52s
4. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 40m 58s
5. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 41m 35s
6. Dieter Depping (D)/Timo Gottschalk (D) Volkswagen Touareg 42m 08s
7. Joan Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 42m 17s
8. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 42m 17s
11. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Matthieu Baumel (F) BMW X3 CC 43m 06s
13. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC 44m 15s
16. Bruno Saby (F)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 45m 16s
- Y. Theissen, X-Raid -