Losail, Qatar: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel romped to an emphatic victory on the opening 358.15km desert stage of the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally on Thursday.
The day’s stage started south-west of Losail and wound its way through the remote western wastelands before crossing the bottom of the country to finish near Sealine in the south. Nasser, driving a Toyota Hilux began the day positioned eighth on the road, but he delivered another polished performance to extend his overall advantage in the fourth round of the FIA World Cup to 16min 07sec.
Nasser said: “It was a good job today, but it was a very difficult stage and not easy for the navigation. We lose a little bit of time searching for the road and we had one flat tyre, but I am quite happy to be here. Many people made mistakes today. Tomorrow is another day and we try to do our best.”
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski lost some time in the middle of the stage with his own navigational issues, but the X–Raid MINI driver hit back over the closing kilometres to pull clear of fellow countryman Aron Domzala to snatch the second quickest time and move up to a similar position in the standings.
Dutchman Erik van Loon put Wednesday evening’s Losail mishap to the back of his mind and clocked the fourth quickest time to move up the field to seventh. Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan and Russian Vladimir Vasilyev finished the stage in fourth and fifth overall and held fifth and fourth in the overall classification, respectively.
FIA World Cup leader Martin Prokop slipped to sixth in the rankings after losing his way in the desert.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla increased his lead in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles after Saudi Arabian championship rival Ahmed Shegawi suffered technical problems before PC2. The QMMF and Ooredoo-backed Nissan Patrol driver also held an impressive 10th overall.
Frenchman Claude Fournier romped to the T3 stage win in his Polaris RZR 1000 and moved up to an impressive eighth in the overall rankings after series rival Jose Luis Pena Campo of Spain lost time early on and both Italy’s Michele Cinotto and Spaniard Santiago Navarro were delayed.
The Qatar debut of Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers came to a premature and painful halt when co-driver Robert Howie complained of back pain shortly after a heavy landing in a deep hole shortly before the first passage control. De Villiers took the sensible decision to retire the Toyota.
Polish Orlen Team rider Maciej Giemza maintained a level head and survived the rigours of navigating alone from the front to card a stage time of 5hrs 47min 56sec on the sole motorcycle. Russian Alexsandr Maksimov was a comfortable leader of the quad category after Dutch rival Kees Koolen stopped with fuel pump problems on the day’s stage and lost a lot of time.
The difficulty of the stage decimated the field running in the Manateq Qatar National Baja and T2 leader Adel Abdulla – who is eligible for both rallies – stormed to the top of the leader board in his TOK Sport Nissan Patrol Y62.
Despite losing over an hour, Al-Shegawi (Toyota) held fifth place behind the Qatari, second-placed Kuwait’s Thuwaini Al-Nahel (Polaris) and the Qatari duo of Mohammed Al-Meer (Nissan) and Sheikh Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (Nissan).
Overnight leader Abdulaziz Al-Bsheyer, Nayef Al-Nasr, Ahmed Allouh and Mohammed Al-Attiyah all suffered their own fair share of mechanical issues and delays on the treacherous special.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – Top-three positions after SS2 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hrs 38min 41sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 3hrs 54min 48sec
3. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hrs 03min 52sec
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 5hrs 52min 32sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R 6hrs 57min 39sec
Manateq Qatar National Baja – top three positions after SS2
1. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Patrol Y62 (T2) 2hrs 15min 13sec
2. Thuwaini Al-Nahel (KWT)/Mohammed Al-Tahnoun (KWT) Polaris RZR 1000 2hrs 57min 47sec
3. Mohammed Al-Meer (QAT)/Jaber Abu Jabri (QAT) Nissan Patrol 2hrs 58min 12sec