Tough stages, tougher navigation challenge participants in Qatar Cross-Country Rally
April 18 2017 11:24 PM
Participants in the Qatar Cross-Country Rally pose with QMMF officials prior to the start of the event.

By Joe Koraith/Doha

The Qatar Cross-Country Rally is one of the events of the calendar held in high regard by all the participants. The tricky terrain and the demanding navigation requirements have established this round as one of the toughest in the calendar. Four extremely desert sections will require the competitors to be at their very best if they are to emerge victorious. 
Reigning motorcycle Dakar Rally champion Sam Sunderland knows that this will be a different outing as compared to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which he had won. “I am happy to be here in Qatar for another year. We always know before we come that we will have a tough race here. It’s such a different race from Abu Dhabi. There it’s all dunes. We come here and there’s a lot of navigation and different terrain. It’s good to have that contrast. We have to adapt so quick with only a week in between,” said the KTM rider during the press conference yesterday.  
Sheikh Khalid al-Qassimi, who won the car category in Abu Dhabi, after an unfortunate accident suffered by Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah, knows how difficult this event can be. “This is known to be a very difficult rally. I have participated in the Middle East Rally Championship. That was difficult in itself but cross country is different and it will be more difficult. The stages and the kilometres are longer,” said al-Qassimi yesterday.
“The purpose of this event is to learn more about navigation, about the terrain and about the car. I would like to wish all the drivers a very successful and safe event,” he added.
Al-Attiyah, who was leading by more than an hour in Abu Dhabi before that crash, is still on recovery path. “Both me and Mathieu are lucky that we didn’t break anything. But I have muscle and nerve injuries. I have been in Apsetar Hospital for 10 days. I am getting better and better,” said the Qatari yesterday. 
Qatar’s second representative in the cars category, Mohamed Abu Issa, is looking to gain valuable experience for next year’s Dakar. “Cross country is a lot more difficult. You have to handle different terrains. In Abu Dhabi, you had to tackle the dunes. In Qatar navigation will be the most important aspect. For me it’s super important to finish the world championship and get as much experience as I can for the next year in Dakar,” he said.
Navigation is the biggest focus for participants in Qatar. Czech driver Martin Prokop joked that his co-driver Jan Tomanek is a very worried man because of the challenge that this round offers. “I have heard many stories about this event and the tricky navigation and my co-driver Jan (Tomanek) is quite worried and knows he will need to work hard,” said Prokop yesterday.
Honda rider Paulo Goncalves too enforced the prevalent opinion that Qatar is going to test the limits of the competitors. “We know here that we will have a long, difficult rally with a lot of navigation. The level of riders is higher. I expect an intense race,” said Goncalves.
All of this talk of Qatar being a tough race leaves QMMF president Abdulrahman al-Mannai a very happy man. He knows that it will translate into a competitive race. “We’re very excited about this race. It’s going to be a difficult race. And we are hoping that the weather will help us in this race. It has been an exciting season so far. We are hoping that we see a strong competition in this round.”
Come Saturday and those present on the winner’s ramp will be very happy at having conquered one of the most challenging rounds in this calendar.

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