Aktau City, Kazakhstan: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah overcame tough challenges to register his second victory in Rally Kazakhstan and claim the outright lead in the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Al Attiyah and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel of Overdrive Racing looked to be in control before the fifth demanding selective section through some of the remotest terrain in eastern Kazakhstan. Lengthy delays for the crew in that loop stage to the north of Aktau City meant that the outcome went down to the wire and the Toyota Hilux crew had to stave off a fierce challenge from rival and Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel over the final stage to confirm a second win on the longest FIA event in the calendar.
Al Attiyah eventually pressed on down the coastline of the Caspian Sea to the finish in Aktau City to secure a winning margin of 5min 21sec and repeat his 2017 triumph on the newest round of the cross-country calendar. The win gave him an unofficial nine-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship to take to the final round in Morocco in October.
Al Attiyah said: “I am obviously very happy to win Rally Kazakhstan and now I am leading the championship. Now we are waiting for Morocco. This is a good year for us. Six wins in total and six races in which I compete. We controlled the pace well today. It was a nice stage, no problems.”
Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi was not able to repeat last year’s success in Kazakhstan but he and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz claimed two stage wins, led after day one and recovered from a third-day roll and a series of punctures to reach the finish in eighth overall.
Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul held third overall in their Toyota Hilux until issues on the fifth Aktau loop stage cost them a lot of time. They won the last stage but hefty time penalties dropped them out of the top 15 at the finish in Aktau.