Attiyah 2nd to Rajhi, holds overall lead
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA QATARI rally superstar Nasser bin Saleh al Attiyah suffered a puncture and finished second to Saudi Arabian Yazeed al Rajhi in the rerun of the first special stage but still looked in control of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Thursday.
Driving Toyota Hilux, the Qatari, with Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz Senra, finished the 330.51-km stage in the southern Qatar desert in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 34 seconds, being about seven minutes faster than yesterday despite a puncture.
Rajhi and co-driver Felipe Palmeiro also drove their Mini All4 Racing at frantic pace to claim the stage only 1 minute and 20 seconds ahead of Attiyah.
The 2011 Dakar Rally champion, who was imposed a one-minute penalty yesterday for not sticking to stage speed limit, was however still holding a comfortable 8-min, 55-sec lead at the end of the day.
Spain’s Barreda Bort and Poland’s Lukasz Laskawiec turned in good performances to register stage victories, in their respective categories.
Bort overtook numerous rivals in the motorcycle category to clinch the fastest time on two wheels.
Attiyah was followed by Dubai’s Khalifa al Mutaiwei who set the third quickest time and this was enough to push the Fazza Rally Team driver up from sixth to third and, more importantly, in front of championship rival Jean-Louis Schlesser.
“Today the stage was much rougher than yesterday and more difficult,” said Attiyah.
“I had a puncture but I am still quite happy because I have a comfortable lead and we have the most difficult stage of the event tomorrow.” “I felt good about the stage today,” said Rajhi. “Yesterday I did not know anything about the tracks and I lost nearly seven minutes with two punctures. Today I planned to attack and it worked perfectly. This is a fantastic stage win for me, especially here in Qatar. I even had a puncture near the finish at kilometre 268 and I was delayed a little by passing some of the other cars,” added Rajhi, who used three spare tyres today.
Marc Coma now has a reduced overall lead of 68 seconds over Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues in the motorcycle category after the pair finished the day’s stage together. But Barreda Bort was the revelation of the day after incurring a crippling two-hour penalty on Wednesday evening for an alleged route violation.
The Spaniard mounted a superb charge through the field on Thursday to win the special by 7m 10s, but a game of cat and mouse is now expected between Coma and Rodrigues over the final two days. Spain’s Jordi Viladoms climbed to third overall.
Poland’s Lukasz Laskawiec suffered a breakdown on the first stage while leading the quad category, but the Yamaha rider made amends on stage two to confirm the fastest time. Qatar’s Adel Hussain Abdullah also recovered from first day delays to claim second position, but Poland’s Rafal Sonik retained the overall lead.