Astrakhan, Russia: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah fought back strongly over the opening kilometres of the fourth loop stage at the Silk Way Rally in southern Russia on Tuesday before another stoppage with a broken driveshaft cost the Qatari a potential stage win.
The Overdrive Racing driver reached the overnight halt in Astrakhan in third position.
With the differential replaced on his Toyota Hilux at the night halt, Al Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel attacked from a lowly starting position on the road on the 366km loop stage through the Takyr deserts around Astrakhan.
When overnight leader Harry Hunt stopped with broken suspension, Al Attiyah moved up to second place and the stage win would have enabled the two-time Dakar winner to close the gap on rally leader Yazeed Al Rajhi with three stages remaining before the finish in Moscow on Friday afternoon.
But a broken driveshaft intervened and Al Attiyah ceded another 18min 46sec to the Saudi and now holds third position, 55min 54sec behind the rally leader. Frenchman Matthieu Serradori claimed the stage win from Al Rajhi by just one second and climbs to second overall.
“We had the differential issue and that cost us a lot of time on both parts of the Marathon stage,” said Al Attiyah. “The only strategy today was to attack. We started a long way behind the leaders on the road and I had to pass a lot of trucks and cars. I guess we are back in the race now and looking forward to the run north to Moscow. The only strategy is to push.”
With the rear differential issue resolved in Astrakhan, Al Attiyah began the fourth stage with the goal of reducing the deficit to the leader Hunt. That was made slightly easier when Hunt incurred a 10-minute time penalty at the night halt for not carrying two spare wheels on the second and third stages and he saw his advantage over the Qatari reduced to 45min 34sec.
Al Attiyah began the fourth loop stage from 26th on the road but there was drama after 50km of the special when Hunt stopped with front suspension damage and was forced to wait for his assistance truck before he could continue. The Briton’s demise promoted Al Rajhi into the virtual lead and Al Attiyah into second position.
By PC1, after 140km, Al Attiyah had passed 14 cars and trucks and was leading the stage by 2min 10sec from Serradori, with Al Rajhi, Denis Krotov and Joan Roma running behind. But the Qatari stopped for around 16 minutes after 200 kilometres with the breakage and Serradori held a one-second stage lead over Al Rajhi after 250km. Hunt started moving again after a two-hour time delay to repair his broken suspension, as Serradori went on to cross the finish line one second faster than Al Rajhi to claim a first stage win.
Al Attiyah’s Silk Way Rally challenge is running with support from Red Bull, the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), Ooredoo Qatar and Toyota GAZOO Racing.
2018 Silk Way Rally – Top 3 positions after SS4 (unofficial @13.56hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 14hrs 48min 09sec
2. Matthieu Serradori (FRA)/Fabian Lurquin (BEL) MCM Original 15hrs 34min 38sec
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 15hrs 44min 03sec