By Sports Reporter/Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel continued to dominate the Silk Way Rally as they won the fourth consecutive stage yesterday.
A mammoth 470-kilometre loop stage around the Ulaanbaatar bivouac saw plenty of drama served up on the fourth stage. But the al-Attiyah was untouched by the length of the stage as he took his Toyota Hilux to easy fourth win on the loop around the Ulaanbaatar bivouac in Mongolia.
It underlines the expertise of the reigning Dakar Rally champion, who is able to open the road and still secure stage wins. “We enjoyed the Mongolian landscape, it really was incredible. We’re so happy to be here and doing well at this rally,” said al-Attiyah.
“We did a good job throughout this very long stage. There was no problem with the car and Mathieu (Baumel) made a good job with the navigation, so no problems there either,” the Qatari legend added.
Eric Van Loon (NLD) and Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) were second yesterday in Toyota Hilux, while Chinese pair Kun Liu and Hongyu Pan came third in SMG Buggy. Now after four stages, al-Attiyah and Baumel have a 09:03:27 seconds overall lead over Kun Liu and Hongyu Pan. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed al-Rajhi, the defending champion, has pulled out due to mechanical problems leaving his Overdrive Racing teammate al-Attiyah as the overwhelming favourite for the title. There are still six stages remaining in the rigorous rally.
Tomorrow’s fifth stage will be held from Ulaanbaator to Mandalgovi. The 337-kilometre timed special stage will take the Silk Way convoy as high as 1,600 metres. It’s set to be another fast stage as Mongolia continues to thrive in its role as Silk Way host.
Meanwhile, taking full advantage of the near 500-kilometre timed special stage were the leading bikers of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team. The 2017 Dakar Rally bike race winner Sam Sunderland of Britain claimed his second stage win of the Silk Way yesterday. The result puts Sunderland into the overall lead of the rally for the first time.
“It was a super long day and it was also really quick so the kilometres got ticked off pretty fast,” Sunderland said. “But it was so long, even after the refuelling we had many more kilometres. It was difficult to keep concentrated, and in one part it started raining which brought down the visibility. Overall it was another good stage and I’m feeling really good on the bike,” he added.
Sunderland was followed home on stage four by fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Luciano Benavides of Argentina. The 1-2 result for the team on stage four reflects the current overall rankings.
“The speed was so, so fast all day. I enjoyed the stage and was pleased with how I rode. I didn’t have any small crashes so that’s always good. Now I’ll try to rest as much as I can because tomorrow we have another long day,” said Benavides.
It wasn’t the best day at the office for Team Kamaz Master as they saw their main rival Siarhay Viazovich of Belarus extend his lead in the truck race. Following the third stage win, Andrey Karginov of Russia was all set to apply more pressure to Viazovich on stage four – but it was not a smooth ride for the Russian.
“We started to smell a problem with the antifreeze in the middle of the stage, and then the temperatures started to go up. When the situation became critical we stopped to add some water.” Karginov said.
It was not just Karginov who had trouble on the stage, his Kamaz teammate Anton Shibalov of Russia also got held up along the way. “Today we had to change two tyres on our truck. We had the pressure right, but the tyres didn’t hold up to the speed of the track. Unfortunately we lost about 15-20 minutes in total. It wasn’t our day,” said Shibalov.
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