as rivals hit problems
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel have claimed a huge advantage on the second leg of the Qatar Cross Country Rally, the opening round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. The Toyota pairing trailed in second position throughout a lot of the section but then benefitted when both Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr and Jakub Przygonski/Timo Gottschalk hit problems in the sister Hilux cars. As such, Al Attiyah now leads his home round of the series by one hour, six minutes and 49 seconds over the T3 crew of Austin Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin who have climbed from fifth to second. Al Rajhi and Orr have slipped to third, but only one minute and 38 seconds further adrift.
Today stage was the second longest of the rally and took the crews over a 334.25 kilometre section that wound its way from the north before heading south down the western side of the country. Al-Attiyah started the day with six minutes in hand to Al Rajhi, who picked up a 10-second penalty for a speeding infringement last night. Unlike yesterday, the Qatari was not the pacesetter in the section and trailed Al Rajhi until his Toyota team-mate started haemorrhaging time. Al-Attiyah’s advantage was further extended when third-placed Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk lost nearly two hours before limping to the finish.
“It’s been a good day, just one destroyed tyre fifty kilometres before the finish,” said stage winner, Al-Attiyah. “We had a good run, good navigation and we are quite happy. This rally is very difficult if you don’t take care with the speed; you will get a lot of problems. From the beginning it was very tricky but Mathieu [Baumel] did a good job.”
After a measured performance yesterday, Jones and Gugelmin have powered up the leaderboard, not only benefitting from the problems experienced by Al Rajhi and Przygonski, but also when fourth-placed T3 leader Khalid Al Mohannadi lost time. The American/Brazilian crew are now in a shock second position and head the T3 category by just over 19 minutes. “That was a good one but really hard, really long and rocky,” said Jones. “We had a bit of a steering problem so I’ve had my hands full with that, but today’s stage has had a lot of attrition and we’re here. For us though, what an insane result, we’re super happy; awesome!”
Al Rajhi may have only slipped one position, into third, but he is now over 68 minutes adrift of Al-Attiyah in the overall classification. He was on a hot pace through the start of the section but was relieved to reach the finish after dropping so much time. “We had a power steering problem and lost all the oil,” explained Al Rajhi, who was fifth through the section. “We also had two punctures and the windscreen is cracked after an impact in a ditch. We are here though and tomorrow is a different day.”
Khalid Al Mohannadi and Sébastien Delaunay lost positon to Jones but completed the section in third to maintain their fourth position overall. “We had two flat tyres and the intercom broke about 30 kilometres into the section,” said Al Mohannadi, now second in T3.
Ahmed Al-Kuwari and Manuel Lucchese were delighted to have climbed the leaderboard and now hold third in the T3 category and fifth overall. “A great result,” said the Qatari driver. “It was a tough stage, long and technical, but we enjoyed it. We had two punctures and then had to take it a bit easy with no more spares.” Saleh Alsaif and Ali Hassan Obaid moved one position up the leaderboard to round out the top six in their Can-Am X3.
Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk had a disastrous day with a broken steering arm, the Toyota Hilux crew losing nearly two hours to Al-Attiyah, dropping them from third to seventh. After struggling to make emergency repairs in the desert, the crew was forced to limp to the finish. “It was a hard stage for us,” said the Pole. “We had good rhythm but in one big jump we were too fast and bent an [steering] arm.”
Today’s third Al-Kharsaah selective section is the longest of the event at 340.28km and heads down towards the Inland Sea, before turning north-west and heading back through the central deserts.