: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Dubai-based English rider Sam Sunderland and Chile’s Ignacio Casale will take outright leads of 13min 58sec, 18min 45sec and 7min 57sec in their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories into the final 350.94km selective section of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Friday morning.
Driving a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel controlled their pace perfectly on a fourth successive demanding stage across the remote dunescapes and rocky tracks of the State of Qatar. They won yet another stage and will take a comfortable lead over the X-raid Mini All4 Racing crew of Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk into the final day.
“I’m happy. We try to do our best every day and control the race,” said Al-Attiyah. “If we have to push, we push, but, if we don’t, we take it easy. I enjoyed the last part in the dunes. I was really pushing and we make a good time there. I will do my pace as normal tomorrow. One time only we stopped to find the road, but nothing serious.”
Punctures and a navigational issue cost Al-Rajhi dearly. “We were unlucky to be honest. We were lost before PC1 for maybe one and a half minutes where we crossed the tarmac. Then we attacked like hell and we took back the time and were leading by around 20 seconds. Then, I had two punctures and I thought that if I had another one, I would be stopped in the stage for no reason. So we decided to finish the stage slowly.”
The motorcycle contest was all but settled in Sunderland’s favour when Chilean rival Pablo Quintanilla made a howling navigational error close to the start and lost well over 25 minutes, having started the day tied to the second with his KTM rival. The Husqvarna rider did manage to claw back some of that time over the rest of the stage, but Sunderland will take a massive lead into Friday’s finale.
“I arrived at one point and I could not see any tracks in front of me in the sand from Pablo, so I figured that he’d made a mistake and I thought to myself, just keep going,” said Sunderland. “I didn’t think it was as big a mistake as it was. At the refuel, the guys said he’d made a mistake. My time was good and I had to capitalise as much as I could. I pushed a lot trying to make as few mistakes as possible. The road book is so tricky here. We have to stay focused. Anything can happen. This race is brutal. It’s really physical and if you hit one stone it’s the end of your day.”
A visibly disappointed Quintanilla said: “I did a mistake and lost many time. These things can happen when you are in front and you are trying to go fast. The road book in this place was confusing with the change of caps. I lose the way. Now I must think about the championship. This is only the second round and the points are valuable.”
Ignacio Casale started the day with a comfortable lead over Rafal Sonik in the quad duel, but the Pole was in determined mood from the outset and he soon made in-roads into that advantage. His Yamaha rival made some of that time back as the stage progressed and heads into day five in a strong position to shadow the stage-winning Pole to the finish and claim a debut victory in Qatar.
Behind Al-Rajhi, G-Energy Team Mini driver Vladimir Vasilyev is a distant third and Kazakh Yuriy Sazonov climbed to fourth overall after Portugal’s Ricardo Porém lost time and slipped to fifth. Jutta Kleinschmidt continues to impress in sixth.
Marek Dabrowski finished the day in seventh place and made good progress after rolling his Toyota Hilux Overdrive on the first of the dunes on Wednesday. Chile’s Hernan Garces is enjoying his first taste of Middle Eastern rallying and holds ninth in the DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger behind Yerdan Shagirov’s H3 Evolution V.
Saudi’s Yasir Seaidan and French navigator Sébastien Delaunay took control of the T2 category for Series Production Cross-Country Vehicles when overnight leader Adel Hussein stopped his Nissan Middle East-supported Patrol just short of the second passage control with mechanical issues. The Qatari will hope to start the final day and collect valuable T2 points.
It was a disastrous day for the two surviving female teams in the QMMF-backed Nissan Patrols. Kiwi Emma Gilmour lost a wheel and French girl Charlotte Berton ground to a halt further along the stage, although Berton continued to the finish into the afternoon and Gilmour headed directly for the bivouac.
Day 4 – as it happened
Rafal Sonik was handed back the 21min 40sec that he lost at the scene of Julien Villarrubia’s crash on Wednesday and that meant the Pole began the penultimate stage trailing Casale by 13min 58sec in the quad category.
Quintanilla was first into the stage amongst the 10 riders and two quads, but the Chilean made a costly navigational error after around 20 minutes of riding and he found himself badly lost for over 25 minutes. The Husqvarna rider managed to regain the correct route, but Sunderland was already in the distance and heading towards PC1 after 64.89km. Had the motorcycle contest been settled there and then?
José Cornejo led at PC1 and was running with Van Beveren and Rodrigues, but Quintanilla eventually passed the checkpoint 24min 24sec slower than the leader, but managed to maintain second overall in the virtual standings. Sonik’s fine form enabled the Pole to reduce Casale’s virtual overall lead in the quad category to 6min 36sec at PC1.
Twenty-nine cars were given permission to start in the FIA category and Al-Attiyah led the way into the stage with a lead of 8min 36sec. Cristina Gutierrez (broken front differential), Raul Orlandini and the Qatari duo of Mohammed Al-Mannai (engine belt) and Jamal Fakhroo did not restart.
As Sunderland cut a lone figure at the refuelling stop at PC2 with the quickest time amongst the motorcycles, Al-Attiyah reached PC1 in 37min 30sec and extended his virtual rally lead over Al-Rajhi to 10min 14sec in the cars. But the Saudi hit back to regain the stage lead at the next checkpoint.
Mohammed A[-Balooshi fell off his KTM before the second passage control and knocked himself out for a short time. He regained consciousness quickly, complained of a sore jawbone and was taken to hospital for a scan and further medical checks.
Sunderland maintained his motorcycle stage lead through the third and fourth checkpoints and went on to finish the special in 4hr 06min 25sec to claim the stage win. Quintanilla put the earlier error to the back of his mind and made up a lot of time over the closing kilometres. He finished fifth and maintains second overall, but Sunderland takes a lead of 18min 45sec into the final day.
Sonik put the opening three days of disappointments behind him and began to chisel into Casale’s advantage in the quad category. By PC2, he was well clear of the troubled Chilean on the stage and trailing by just 76 seconds in the overall standings. But Casale pulled back some of that time over the closing kilometres and was 4min 30sec in front of the Pole after PC3 in the virtual classification. He continued to chip away and remains the favourite to clinch the title on Friday.
Tomorrow (Friday), is the final stage of the Sealine Rally and competitors tackle a selective section of 350.94km that starts at Rawdat Rashid and finishes at Sealine. The special heads through the heart of southern Qatar before reaching the west coast and then cutting through the most southerly deserts to run north to finish at Sealine, via the Inland Sea.
There will be a live Red Bull Show in the VIP car park at Losail before the ceremonial finish of the rally from 16.30hrs running through to 19.30hrs. Entertainment will feature the Mawater Car Exhibition and the Red Bull Athletes Show. The finish ceremony and prize giving will take place at the circuit from 18.00hrs.
2016 Sealine Cross-Country Rally – positions on SS4 (unofficial @ 14.30hrs):
- Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hr 21min 26sec
- Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 3hr 26min 48sec
- Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 3hr 31min 32sec
- Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Hummer H3 III 3hr 41min 30sec
- Jutta Kleinschmidt (DEU)/Philipp Beier (DEU) X-raid CBRA 3hr 49min 56sec
- Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally 4hr 06min 15sec
- Adrien Van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha WR450F 4hr 08min 34sec
- Jose Cornejo (CHI) KTM 450 Rally 4hr 08min 59sec
- Helder Rodrigues (POR) Yamaha WR450 4hr 10min 30sec
- Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna 450 Rally 4hr 25min 00sec
- Pierre Alexander Renet (FRA) Husqvarna 450 Rally 4hr 28min 12sec
- Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 700 4hr 48min 24sec
- Ignacio Casale (CHI) Yamaha Raptor 700 SE 4hr 54min 25sec
2016 Sealine Cross-Country Rally – overall positions after SS4 (unofficial @ 14.30hrs):
- Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 11hr 50min 03sec
- Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 12hr 04min 01sec
- Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 12hr 53min 38sec
- Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Hummer H3 III 13hr 34min 12sec
- Ricardo Porém (POR)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Mini All4 Racing 13hr 54min 50sec
- Jutta Kleinschmidt (DEU)/Philipp Beier (DEU) X-raid CBRA 13hr 57min 05sec
- Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 14hr 41min 37sec
- Yerdan Shagirov (KAZ)/Vitaliy Yevtyekkhov (RUS) H3 Evo V 14hr 58min 23sec
- Hernan Garces (CHI)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHI) Ford Ranger 15hr 15min 30sec
- Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Toyota Land Cruiser (T2) 15hr 51min
- Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally 15hr 04min 53sec
- Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna 450 Rally 15hr 23min 38sec
- Helder Rodrigues (POR) Yamaha WR450 15hr 32min 45sec
- Juan Carlos Salvatierra (BOL) KTM 450 Replica 15hr 52min 54sec
- Pierre Alexander Renet (FRA) Husqvarna 450 Rally 15hr 58min 30sec
- Scott Britnell (AUS) Husqvarna FE450 19hr 16min 05sec
- Ignacio Casale (CHI) Yamaha Raptor 700 SE 17hr 26min 57sec
- Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 700 17hr 34min 54sec