Losail, Qatar: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel overcame hefty penalties that were added to their overall time to regain the outright lead with the fastest time on the 340.54km selective section of the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally on Friday.
The Toyota Hilux driver started the day with a stage lead of 16min 07sec, but incurred 15 minutes of time penalties for missing a waypoint and a further two for a speeding violation. He came under fierce pressure early in the day’s special in the north of Qatar from closest Polish rival Jakub Przygonski in an X-raid-run MINI John Cooper Works Rally, but the former enduro rider ceded time from then on and now trails the Qatari by 7min 26sec.
The day’s 340.54km selective section began to the north of Losail and passed around the northern extremities of the country before cutting across the uppermost deserts to run down the western coast to finish off the Al-Kharsaah Road, west of Doha.
Al-Attiyah said: “We did a good job today after the road penalties and we push for the last 180km. We feel a piece of the right rear tyre coming off because of the heat, but we decided to continue. I am quite happy to have a good stage. Tomorrow we need to make a good time in the dunes at the start of the stage.”
Vladimir Vasilyev benefited from time penalties for both Yasir Seaidan and Aron Domzala, but that did not detract from an excellent stage performance by the Russian in his G-Energy Team MINI One. He carded the third quickest time to move up to a similar position in the overall rankings.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla stayed out of trouble over the treacherous terrain and maintained a safe pace to extend his T2 category lead in a Nissan Patrol Y62 backed by the QMMF and Ooredoo. All his rivals suffered long delays in the desert.
A focused Adel said: “We decide to push again today to make even more of a gap. We were pushing hard, but fast and clean. When we reached some tough places we slowed down and then we pushed again. We had only one flat tyre and we stopped to change it - no other problems. The navigation was really tricky, particularly at the beginning and in the middle of the stage.
“Nasser (Al-Kuwari) did a good job. We work together to share information and we are happy. When you go very slow you make mistakes, but we will take no risks now. We will try to find a good way to finish. The dunes tomorrow are in our area. We are able to deflate the tyres and stop and put the pressure back, so no need to take risks.”
Frenchman Claude Fournier extended his advantage in T3 after further delays for Spain’s José Luis Pena Campo, Italy’s Michele Cinotto and Spaniard Santiago Navarro.
Russian quad rider Alexsandr Maksimov extended his advantage over Dutch rival Kees Koolen to 40min 19sec after a measured run at the front of the entire field. Polish Orlen Team rider Maciej Giemza safely negotiated the special after falling behind the leading cars and the top quad to remain on course for maximum FIM World Cup points.
The penultimate stage of 324.98km starts on Saturday to the south of Doha to the west of the industrial town of Mesaieed and then heads south through the sand dunes, north of the Inland Sea, before turning north through the middle of the country and then heading up the western coast to finish at Al-Wabra, west of Doha.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – top three positions after SS3 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hrs 03min 17sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 7hrs 10min 48sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 7hrs 29min 04sec
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 11hrs 54min 08sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R 14hrs 25min 49sec
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) Barren Racer BR 1690 15hrs 06min 08sec