Losail, Qatar: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah is one desert stage away from a sixth victory in seven years at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally after he and French navigator Matthieu Baumel won the fourth selective section by 7min 17sec on Saturday. The Toyota Hilux pairing duly extended their overall lead over the MINI John Cooper Works Rally crew of Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul to 14min 43sec. The MINI crew lost vital minutes stopping to change two flat tyres.
The fourth stage ran for 324.98km, started to the south of Doha and passed through around 40km of sand dunes north of the Inland Sea. The route then turned north through the middle of the country and then headed through the stony western deserts to finish at Al-Wabra, west of Doha.
Przygonski was actually the fastest of the two drivers through the first 107km, but Nasser pushed harder as the stage progressed to record a fourth stage win of the week.
Nasser said: “We took it steady today, no punctures and we had no problem with the navigation. We try to keep going like this because the 60 points here is very important. I was going carefully at the start and then we pushed a bit afterwards. Now we try to keep a good pace to finish the rally. We are also happy with the parts that we have tested here in Qatar.”
G-Energy Team MINI One driver Vladimir Vasilyev was quick out of the starting blocks as well and ceded minutes from then on, but the fifth quickest time enabled the Russian to hold on to third overall.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla’s held a massive T2 lead of 3hrs 34min 54sec at the start of the penultimate stage and the Nissan Patrol Y62 driver - who is running with the backing of the QMMF and Ooredoo - took no risks to clock a stage time of 5hrs 04min 34sec to maintain a fine seventh in the overall standings.
Championship rival Ahmed Al-Shegawi had struggled for two days but still began the day in 10th overall. He lost even more time to the Qatari and heads into the final day 4hrs 08min 03sec adrift of the T2 lead.
Adel said: “One day to go. We took it easy from the start, just cruising and we stopped to inflate the tyres after the dunes. When the road was better we decided to push a little. We also pushed when the car was lighter with the fuel load. Nasser (Al-Kuwari) did a good job. Some places were tricky and we missed the right way with seven kilometres to go. We find the road again and we make it to the finish.”
Frenchman Claude Fournier began the start with a T3 lead over Spaniard José Luis Pena Campo of 51min 43sec and increased that after another gritty stage performance.
Russian quad rider Alexsandr Maksimov began the day with a lead of 1hr 44min 11sec over rival Kees Koolen, but the Dutchman lost time with further mechanical issues on the special, despite the team working on the Barren Racing quad until 02.00hrs on Saturday morning. The difference was actually reduced to 46min 34sec at the end of the day, however, after the Russian incurred over two hours of time penalties.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – Top three positions after SS4 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 10hrs 26min 19sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 10hrs 41min 02sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 11hrs 12min 56sec
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 16hrs 54min 32sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R 20hrs 14min 29sec
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) Barren Racer BR 1690 21hrs 01min 03sec