Przygonski second on stage; Khalid Al-Mohannadi leads T3 after accident for Jones.
Gonzalo Guayasamin’s Polaris destroyed by fire; engine woes sideline Adel Abdulla.
LUSAIL (Qatar): Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah continued his relentless charge towards a seventh victory in nine seasons at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally (MQCCR) with another dominant performance on the 340.28km selective section through Qatar’s southern and western deserts on Tuesday.
The Qatari and French navigator Matthieu Baumel were like a pair of greyhounds out of the blocks and continued to edge away from their closest rivals, the gap on the day’s stage exacerbated by the fact that Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr started the special 15 minutes behind them on the road.
Al-Attiyah guided his Toyota Gazoo Hilux to a stage time of 3hr 28min 30sec and that was sufficient to see his outright advantage increase to 1hr 21min 18sec over his team-mate.
Al-Attiyah said: “Jakub (Przygonski) was pushing but he doesn’t have anything to lose. We did a good job from start-to-finish. Some place, we have been careful to find the road. Everything disappears from the wind. We are quite happy. We win again today. It was more sandy today. We will see tomorrow.”
Austin Jones started the day with a 19-minute advantage in the T3 category and was running second on the road in his South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3. But the American ground to a halt north of the Inland Sea after an unfortunate collision with the rear of Al-Rajhi’s Toyota, when he tried to reverse after being stuck on a dune.
The T3 sustained a broken trailing arm and substantial rear end damage as a result and Jones and Brazilian co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin were forced to make emergency repairs with ratchet straps with a resultant loss of around 45 minutes. They eventually stopped again close to the finish when the repair unravelled and were frantically trying to make a second repair to enable them to reach the stage end.
“We have two punctures and a small story with the T3 (Jones),” said Al-Rajhi. “He reversed in the dunes and he hit my car. It was really bad luck. He was stuck and we went to go round and he decided to reverse. Now we try and keep our position.”
Jones’s father Jesse, himself an esteemed Baja racer in America, said: “The whole back end of the car was wrecked. They tried to make a repair and then the ratchet straps fell apart and it was back to square one again. They were second on the road this morning and running so well. This is a big disappointment for everyone.”
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and German navigator Timo Gottschalk recovered strongly from a miserable second day and the second fastest time behind Al-Attiyah enabled the hard-charging Pole to move up to the final podium position in the third of the Overdrive Toyotas.
“It was a good stage and we had a good rhythm,” said the Pole. “We went back to our proper race. In the beginning, there was a lot of sand and some sand dunes with camel grass. It was a nice stage and we enjoy. It was complicated navigation, like always, but are getting used to the car. We try and continue like we did today, maybe a little faster.”
Hungarian driver Balazs Szalay guided his powerful Opel Grandland X to ninth and fourth in T1 but Mohammed Al-Meer was unable to continue.
A fierce battle raged in T3 behind Jones. Saleh Al-Saif, Ahmed Al-Kuwari, Kees Koolen, Mubarak Al-Hajri, Fedor Vorobyev and Khalid Al-Mohannadi were locked in a six-way tussle for the stage win.
Al-Kuwari snatched the stage win from Al-Hajri by 2min 47sec and moved up to second in the category, 7min 28sec behind Khalid Al-Mohannadi who suffered a late belt scare before slowing to ensure that he finished.
Vorobyev, Koolen, Al-Saif and Al-Mohannadi were third, fourth, fifth and sixth on the day and Al-Saif and Vorobyev settled into third and fourth in the T3 rankings, with Al-Hajri and Al-Saif both sustaining flat tyres on the stage.
A delighted Al-Kuwari said: “A fantastic stage. I love this stage. We did well on this day last year. It was a very similar one to this. The third day has always been our best day. We always seem to pick up towards the end. We climb and climb and never start hot and get hotter…”
Adel Abdulla’s G-Force T3 GF suffered engine issues and was sidelined and then Gustavo Guayasamin’s Polaris caught fire within 70 metres of the stricken G-Force. Both the Equador driver and his Argentinean navigator Ricardo Torlaschi were unharmed in the incident but the Extreme Plus Polaris RXR 1000 was destroyed by the fire. Mohammed Al-Harqan also lost vital minutes before reaching the Inland Sea beach area.
The day’s Al-Kharsaah selective section was the longest of the event at 340.28km. The track headed south towards the Inland Sea, before turning north-west back through the central deserts to finish in the north-west of the country.
The first 151.06km also counted as the second round of the 2020 Manateq Qatar National Baja and local and Kuwaiti entrants were joined by San Marino’s Camelia Liparoti on the start line.
The Can-Am crew of Saleh Al-Saif and Ali Hassan Obaid managed to eke out a 3min 20sec victory over Ahmed Al-Kuwari and Manuel Luchesse. Al-Hajri and Laurent Lichtleuchter rounded off the podium finishers in a Can-Am 1-2-3.
Khalid Al-Mohannadi was fourth, Al-Meer came home in fifth and Liparoti was sixth. There were 14 finishers on the day. Edith Weiss’s Nissan suffered ongoing electrical issues.
Day four is split into two parts with the opening Al-Shahaniyah selective section of 219.79km starting from the Dukhan road and heading north, before turning south along the west coast to finish close to the Umm Bab highway.
A liaison link of 56.37km along the Al-Aamriya road then takes competitors to the start of the second timed section of the day – the 124.84km of the Sealine stage – that heads across the southern deserts to the Inland Sea before turning north along the east coast to finish near the Al-Kharrara road.