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Al-Attiyah praises new Dakar BMW

Reigning FIA Cross Country World Cup and Cross Country Baja champion Nassar Al-Attiyah believes the new, highly modified, BMW X3 CC he will use in the Dakar Rally will be a major step forward.

The X-Raid team's new car features a lower centre of gravity due to a lower fuel tank and the lowering and carrying of one less spare wheel - changes that Al-Attiyah says have dramatically improved the BMW's handling.

"It is now much sharper at turning rather than being too soft," he said. "I needed it like this. My team mate (Guerlian) Chicherit likes the older car but me and (Peter) van Merkstein have a new 2009 spec for this event."

Al-Attiyah tested the car in Dakar specification by running full tanks and a complete set of spare tyres in the Desert Challenge in Dubai, where he also increased the BMW's top speed to 193km/h thanks to a gear ratio change.

"We were immediately fast so our decision to run the car in this specification is justified," he said. "I am also happier running the all terrain tyres throughout the event rather than swapping over to the 'rock' tyre for some stages."

Other changes on the BMWs include an air snorkel for some expected deep river crossings and an air scoop being brought forward over the top of the windscreen to improve cooling for the gearbox and differential. New brakes from AP are also on three of the six BMWs entered.

Al-Attiyah, who also won last year's Middle East Rally Championship in a Group N Subaru, is confident he can avoid the accidents that have proved his downfall in previous Dakar attempts.

"If you keep out of trouble every day, then you will have a good result," he said. "I am very sharp at the moment as I've done a lot of driving this year, but likewise, if (co-driver) Tina (Thorner) says to me there is 10 kilometres of nothing, then I'll give it hell."

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