By Sports Reporter/Lusail
Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel continued where they left off on Friday by setting the fastest time on the longer 323.58km second selective section of the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally on Saturday.
The Toyota Hilux crew reached the first checkpoint after 164.39km in just under 90 minutes, despite a flat tyre, but main rival Jakub Przygonski gained 15 seconds on the Toyota driver after passing both Yazeed al-Rajhi and Bernhard Ten Brinke on the track.
Al-Attiyah redressed the balance through the subsequent kilometres and had eked out a virtual 90-second lead by PC2. He went on to finish the stage in 2hrs 52min 29sec and now leads Przygonski and his German navigator Timo Gottschalk by 8min 03sec in the overall standings.
Al-Attiyah said: “It was a good day, except for one flat tyre before the first PC where we lost close to two minutes. It was not easy to open, but we took a good stage without any technical problems. The navigation was very hard, but we had a good pace today.”
“It was a good stage and we were pushing,” said Przygonski, who drives a MINI John Cooper Works Rally. “It was hard navigation with a good job by Timo. The first part was really good, then we get puncture and we were with Ten Brinke in the dust and we lost some time. The car was okay and we were happy we could push. It was too dusty at the end of the stage and we lost time behind Yazeed.”
The pair were the class of the field, but a fascinating tussle developed between Toyota teammates al-Rajhi and Ten Brinke for third place. They were tied to the second after 220.78km of the day’s demanding stage, but the Dutchman stopped with multiple tyre issues before PC3 and al-Rajhi was able to coast to the finish with the third fastest time and a similar position in the rankings. Ten Brinke eventually finished the stage and plummeted to 11th overall after sustaining a broken steering arm.
Al-Rajhi said: “We had two punctures, but everything in the stage was okay. No problems. Ten Brinke had three flat tyres and no more spare wheels….”
The Russian crew of Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov were a distant fourth in their BMW X3 CC after their own flat tyres, while Italian Eugenio Amos continued the form he showed on Friday and moved up to fifth in his Ford 2WD Buggy.
Amos said: “It was the most difficult stage of my life. It was very fast with tricky navigation and you lose yourself every 100 metres. It was strange having two punctures as well. It is not normal for this car. Maybe it was tyre pressure issues.”
Yasir Seaidan and French navigator Laurent Lichtleuchter rounded off the top six in the second of the X-raid MINIs, despite two punctures, and the Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal guided his Ford F-150 Evo to seventh overall.
Monster Energy Can-Am driver Reinaldo Varela lost considerable time early in the special with a series of three flat tyres, but the Brazilian stormed back into contention for the win as the stage progressed and was rewarded with the fastest time.
Eighth in the overall rankings, the Brazilian now holds a 22-second advantage over South Racing Can-Am Team’s Omani driver Abdullah al-Zubair.
“Punctures, belt issues, the whole shebang today,” reflected al-Zubair. “But I hope to be 22 seconds in front of Reinaldo tomorrow….”
Mohamed al-Attiyah began the day in eighth and topping the T3 standings, but the rally leader’s cousin stopped his Can-Am Maverick X3 with a series of punctures after the start and had dropped 17 minutes to Adel Abdulla by PC1. He recovered to hold 10th overall and third in T3. Russian driver Fedor Vorobeyev was 11th and fourth in T3 with his South Racing Can-Am.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla was the first of the T3 runners to reach the opening checkpoint in his Can-Am Maverick X3 but the former T2 World Champion hit technical trouble soon afterwards with reported water in the fuel tank.
Mohammed al-Harqan benefited from delays for fellow Qatari Mohammed al-Meer to snatch the advantage in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles, despite his own transmission problems.
The third selective section today is the longest of the entire event, runs for 351.98km and follows a road liaison of 69.14km from the Lusail Sports Arena. A second road section of 68.95km returns competitors to the bivouac and service park.
1. Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hrs 52min 29sec; 2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 2hrs 56min 01sec; 3. Yazeed al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hrs 57min 10sec; 4. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) BMW X3 CC 3hrs 03min 43sec; 5. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 3hrs 16min 40sec; 6. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Ford 2WD Buggy 3hrs 22min 44sec.
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