By Sports Reporter/Doha
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah is one desert stage away from a sixth victory in seven years at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally (QCCR) after he and French navigator Matthieu Baumel won the fourth selective section by 7min 17sec yesterday.
The Toyota Hilux pairing duly extended their overall lead over the Mini John Cooper Works Rally crew of Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul to 14min 43sec. The Mini crew lost vital minutes stopping to change two flat tyres.
The fourth stage ran for 324.98km, starting to the south of Doha and passing through around 40km of sand dunes north of the Inland Sea. The route then turned north through the middle of the country and then headed through the stony western deserts to finish at Al-Wabra, west of Doha.
Przygonski was actually the fastest of the two drivers through the first 107km, but al-Attiyah pushed harder as the stage progressed to record a fourth stage win of the week.
Al-Attiyah said: “We took it steady today, no punctures and we had no problem with the navigation. We tried to keep going like this because the 60 points here is very important. I was going carefully at the start and then we pushed a bit afterwards. Now we will try to keep a good pace to finish the rally. We are also happy with the parts that we have tested here in Qatar.”
G-Energy Team Mini One driver Vladimir Vasilyev was quick out of the starting blocks as well and ceded minutes from then on, but the fifth quickest time enabled the Russian to hold on to third overall.
Three of the Overdrive Racing Toyota crews lost valuable minutes with crucial navigation errors: Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan suffered small delays with waypoint navigation and a flat tyre but actually climbed a place to fourth in his Overdrive Toyota on the back of Poland’s Aron Domzala losing considerable tine with navigational problems over the closing kilometres. The youngster finished the day’s section 38 minutes behind his Saudi teammate.
Dutchman Erik van Loon was on course for a top-three stage finish until he lost over 20 minutes in the closing kilometres trying to find a tricky waypoint. FIA World Cup leader Martin Prokop, however, enjoyed a strong stage in his Ford F-150 Evo and recorded the third quickest time to stay on track for a priceless finish in sixth overall.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla’s held a massive T2 lead of 3hrs 34min 54sec at the start of the penultimate stage and the Nissan Patrol Y62 driver — who is running with the backing of the QMMF and Ooredoo — took no risks to clock a stage time of 5hrs 04min 34sec to maintain a fine seventh in the overall standings.
Championship rival Ahmed al-Shegawi had struggled for two days but still began the day in 10th overall. He lost even more time to the Qatari and heads into the final day 4hrs 08min 03sec adrift of the T2 lead.
Adel said: “One day to go. We took it easy from the start, just cruising and we stopped to inflate the tyres after the dunes. When the road was better we decided to push a little. We also pushed when the car was lighter with the fuel load. Nasser (al-Kuwari) did a good job. Some places were tricky and we missed the right way with seven kilometres to go. We find the road again and we make it to the finish.”
Frenchman Claude Fournier began the start with a T3 lead over Spaniard José Luis Pena Campo of 51min 43sec and increased that after another gritty stage performance.
Russian quad rider Alexsandr Maksimov began the day with a lead of 1hr 44min 11sec over rival Kees Koolen, but the Dutchman lost time with further mechanical issues on the special, despite the team working on the Barren Racing quad until 02.00hrs yesterday morning. The difference was actually reduced to 46min 34sec at the end of the day, however, after the Russian incurred over two hours of time penalties.
Polish Orlen Team rider Maciej Giemza finished the special in 4hrs 54min 35sec and is one stage away from maximum FIM championship points in his Orlen Team KTM 450.
CARS (top 5)
1. Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hrs 23min 02sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 3hrs 30min 19sec
3. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabi?ka (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 3hrs 37min 54sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hrs 41min 07sec
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 3hrs 43min 52sec
CARS (top 5)
1. Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 10hrs 26min 19sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 10hrs 41min 02sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 11hrs 12min 56sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 11hrs 50min 03sec
5. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 12hrs 13min 23sec
7. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Nasser al-Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Patrol Y62 (T2) 15hrs 33min 22sec
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 16hrs 54min 32sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R 20hrs 14min 29sec
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) Barren Racer BR 1690 21hrs 01min 03sec
Al-Attiyah aims to equal Jordan Rally record
By A Correspondent/Amman, Jordan
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah will match another major milestone in the history of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship if he secures victory in next week’s 36th edition of the Jordan Rally.
Former driver Mohamed Ben Sulayem has the record for the most number of MERC wins in Jordan – 12. Victory for the Qatari would enable him to equal the prestigious record.
Al-Attiyah has won all but four of the events since claiming his first victory with British navigator Steve Lancaster in a Subaru Impreza WRC in 2003. Ben Sulayem won 12 times between 1984 and 2002 and that included two years when the rally did not run and two seasons when the Emirati was competing in the FIA Group N World Rally Championship.
Speaking during the Qatar Cross-Country Rally at Losail this week, al-Attiyah said: “People talk about records and, yes, it is nice to win rallies and break records. But it’s not about that. It’s about enjoying the rallies and making sure that we give a good performance. I guess if you look at other championships we have won many more rallies and, of course, I still want to win in Jordan. I like the stages and the rally very much.
“It is very important to keep this championship. We need to work to improve and keep it alive. Jordan is doing a very good job to keep the championship strong. Then we have Cyprus, Lebanon, Iran, Kuwait coming back and Qatar will be the final round.
“I am sure the championship will come back very strong. We have seen ups and downs in the past and we always got through those. It’s great to see Vojtech Stajf here in a Skoda. We worked together in Iran last year and encouraged him to come to the MERC. Ken Skidmore from my team helped him with the logistics side of things. He is a very quick driver and it should be interesting to see how he gets on in Jordan.
“The stages in Jordan are always demanding and we know that it is never easy here. Then we have the additional competition from the ERC cars in Cyprus and there is always a strong entry of R5s and fast drivers in Lebanon, so it’s looking very positive this year.”
The Jordan Rally gets underway with a timed super special stage of two kilometres on the shores of the Dead Sea from 16.24hrs on Thursday.
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