Chicherit wins, Al-Attiyah closes in

X-raid BMW driver Guerlain Chicherit collected his first Dakar stage win on the Santiago to San Juan section - but the big news of the day was that Nasser Al-Attiyah halved his Volkswagen team-mate Carlos Sainz's overall lead

Sainz had a troubled run through stage 11, and was seven minutes slower than Chicherit, and 5m38s down on Al-Attiyah's time.

"We had two slow punctures," Sainz explained. "I don't know how we got them. We kept losing time and had to stop. Mark [Miller] overtook us and when we got going again, we were in his dust. We couldn't do anything. There were lots of trees on the stage and we hit quite a few of them."

Those problems allowed Al-Attiyah to reduce Sainz's outright advantage from ten minutes to four and a half minutes going into the final three days of the marathon event.

"It's unbelievable," said Al-Attiyah. "This stage I thought would be easy, but it was not easy. We were in the dust of Carlos, and we missed the road and we hit a big tree. We were really lucky not to roll, yet I took five minutes from him.

"Tomorrow everything is open. I want to win the Dakar."

Chicherit led for most of the stage after his team-mate Stephane Peterhansel dropped time, and eventually won by 30s over Orlando Terranova, who gave the now JMB-run Mitsubishi its best result of this year's rally so far.

Having lost an hour with electrical problems on the rally's very first stage, Chicherit had been under orders to drive conservatively for most of the event. But he said he had displayed his true potential today.

"Our boss had been asking us to take it easier, because in the state of things, we haven't been able to make an impact," Chicherit explained. "So yesterday evening, I asked him to let me off the leash. It was a short special and over 200 kilometres, we could handle any problems that might occur.

"He told me to go for it but to make sure I kept the car on the road. So, I told [co-driver] Tina [Thorner] that this was our stage.

"I attacked right from the start and we nearly crashed with Nasser. He didn't want to let us past. We were door-to-door for around 100 metres. He shot in front of me in a bend, but in the next one I move ahead of him, and after that I was away. It was a close shave. It's good to drive with a bit of freedom."

Last season's winner Giniel de Villiers, who suffered massive delays early in the 2010 event, was third fastest today for VW, just 9s behind Terranova.

Behind Sainz and Al-Attiyah, Miller continues to maintain VW's overall one-two-three, with Peterhansel still ahead of Chicherit in fourth.

Stage 11:

Pos  Driver                Car         Time/Gap
 1.  Guerlain Chicherit    BMW         2h34m51s
 2.  Orlando Terranova     Mitsubishi     + 30s
 3.  Giniel de Villiers    VW             + 39s
 4.  Nasser Al-Attiyah     VW           + 1m41s
 5.  Mark Miller           VW           + 2m50s
 6.  Stephane Peterhansel  BMW          + 2m52s
 7.  Robby Gordon          Hummer       + 5m01s
 8.  Nicolas Misslin       Mitsubishi   + 6m54s
 9.  Carlos Sainz          VW           + 7m19s
10.  Carlos Sousa          Mitsubishi   + 7m26s

Overall positions:

Pos  Driver                Car           Time/Gap
 1.  Carlos Sainz          VW           39h16m55s
 2.  Nasser Al-Attiyah     VW             + 4m28s
 3.  Mark Miller           VW            + 23m50s
 4.  Stephane Peterhansel  BMW         + 2h09m53s
 5.  Guerlain Chicherit    BMW         + 2h23m40s
 6.  Carlos Sousa          Mitsubishi  + 3h54m12s
 7.  Giniel de Villiers    VW          + 4h39m33s
 8.  Guilherme Spinelli    Mitsubishi  + 5h28m25s
 9.  Orlando Terranova     Mitsubishi  + 5h33m42s
10.  Robby Gordon          Hummer      + 5h41m38s
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