– Russian Vasilyev safe in third overall; Prokop third fastest in his Ford
– Navigational woes cost Seaidan, Domzala and Van Loon valuable time
– Qatar’s Adel Abdulla in control in T2; Fournier dominant in T3
– Maksimov on track for quad win; Poland’s Maciej Giemza stays on course
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is one desert stage away from a sixth victory in seven years at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally after he and French navigator Matthieu Baumel won the fourth selective section by 7min 17sec on Saturday.
The Toyota Hilux pairing duly extended their overall lead over the MINI John Cooper Works Rally crew of Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul to 14min 43sec. The MINI crew lost vital minutes stopping to change two flat tyres.
The fourth stage ran for 324.98km, started to the south of Doha and passed through around 40km of sand dunes north of the Inland Sea. The route then turned north through the middle of the country and then headed through the stony western deserts to finish at Al-Wabra, west of Doha.
Przygonski was actually the fastest of the two drivers through the first 107km, but Al-Attiyah pushed harder as the stage progressed to record a fourth stage win of the week.
Al-Attiyah said: « We took it steady today, no punctures and we had no problem with the navigation. We try to keep going like this because the 60 points here is very important. I was going carefully at the start and then we pushed a bit afterwards. Now we try to keep a good pace to finish the rally. We are also happy with the parts that we have tested here in Qatar. »
Second-placed Przygonski said: « At the beginning we were running really good. Then we had a puncture, actually two punctures in the end, and we lost some time changing the tyres. The dunes were quite good and there were a lot of stones in the middle of the stage. It was hard on the tyres. We were pushing hard trying to catch Nasser and then the other puncture slowed us down. We will try and keep a good rhythm tomorrow with safe navigation and see what happens to the end. »
G-Energy Team MINI One driver Vladimir Vasilyev was quick out of the starting blocks as well and ceded minutes from then on, but the fifth quickest time enabled the Russian to hold on to third overall.
Three of the Overdrive Racing Toyota crews lost valuable minutes with crucial navigation errors: Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan suffered small delays with waypoint navigation and a flat tyre but actually climbed a place to fourth in his Overdrive Toyota on the back of Poland’s Aron Domzala losing considerable tine with navigational problems over the closing kilometres. The youngster finished the day’s section 38 minutes behind his Saudi team-mate.
Dutchman Erik van Loon was on course for a top-three stage finish until he lost over 20 minutes in the closing kilometres trying to find a tricky waypoint. FIA World Cup leader Martin Prokop, however, enjoyed a strong stage in his Ford F-150 Evo and recorded the third quickest time to stay on track for a priceless finish in sixth overall.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla’s held a massive T2 lead of 3hrs 34min 54sec at the start of the penultimate stage and the Nissan Patrol Y62 driver – who is running with the backing of the QMMF and Ooredoo – took no risks to clock a stage time of 5hrs 04min 34sec to maintain a fine seventh in the overall standings.
Championship rival Ahmed Al-Shegawi had struggled for two days but still began the day in 10th overall. He lost even more time to the Qatari and heads into the final day 4hrs 08min 03sec adrift of the T2 lead.
Adel said: « One day to go. We took it easy from the start, just cruising and we stopped to inflate the tyres after the dunes. When the road was better we decided to push a little. We also pushed when the car was lighter with the fuel load. Nasser (Al-Kuwari) did a good job. Some places were tricky and we missed the right way with seven kilometres to go. We find the road again and we make it to the finish. »
Frenchman Claude Fournier began the start with a T3 lead over Spaniard José Luis Pena Campo of 51min 43sec and increased that after another gritty stage performance.
Russian quad rider Alexsandr Maksimov began the day with a lead of 1hr 44min 11sec over rival Kees Koolen, but the Dutchman lost time with further mechanical issues on the special, despite the team working on the Barren Racing quad until 02.00hrs on Saturday morning. The difference was actually reduced to 46min 34sec at the end of the day, however, after the Russian incurred over two hours of time penalties.
Polish Orlen Team rider Maciej Giemza finished the special in 4hrs 54min 35sec and is one stage away from maximum FIM championship points in his Orlen Team KTM 450.
Giemza said: « It was a clean stage without big mistakes. I had fun today. It is all because of the tips from Jacek (Czachor) and Kuba (Przygonski). I did my road book better and the performance is the result. That is needed here in Qatar. »
SS4 – as it happened
The three FIM entrants opened the stage over fast, sandy tracks until the route headed into around 40km of treacherous and dunes to the north of the Inland Sea. Competitors then turned inland and north towards the first passage control after 107.49km.
Giemza and Maksimov survived the rigours of the tricky first part of the stage unscathed, but Koolen dropped further time to his Russian rival in the dunes and was soon overtaken by a flying Al-Attiyah, Przygonski and Vasilyev in the leading cars.
Przygonski was on full attack and an impressive morning’s display by the Pole enabled him to beat Al-Attiyah by 1min 03sec to PC1 and reduce the Qatari’s virtual overall lead to 6min 23sec. Vasilyev was running close behind and the three cars were well clear of all their rivals, as José Luis Pena Campo and Santiago Navarro both lost some time in the dunes.
Van Loon, Prokop and Seaidan were the fastest of the pack, as Giemza pressed on through the second and third passage controls in windy conditions and made his way towards PC4 on the Umm Bab road after 243.25km.
Al-Atiyah regained the stage lead and extended his virtual overall advantage to 8min 48sec through PC2, but Adel Abdulla and Fournier stopped to re-inflate their tyres after the dunes. The decision was a good one for the Qatari and he was the eighth car to pass PC1 after the FIA World Cup T1 front-runners.
Al-Attiyah passed PC4 10min 16sec in front of Przygonski and extended his virtual overall lead to 17min 42sec, as Giemza continued his impressive ride on a KTM to set his sights on another stage finish.
e Qatari continued to pull away from the MINI driver over the closing kilometres and another stage win gave him a lead of 14min 43sec to take into the final day. Navigational issues affected three of his Overdrive Racing team-mates, however, and Prokop finished the stage in third position.
Tomorrow (Sunday), is the final selective section of the event and it runs for 321.84km. The action starts to the west of Doha and the route loops through the country’s central deserts before skirting the western coastline and then cutting across the southern extremities to finish through the sand dunes to the north of the Inland Sea south of Sealine with the traditional sprint along a sandy beach to the flying finish.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS4 :
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 10hrs 26min 19sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 10hrs 41min 02sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One, 11hrs 12min 56sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 11hrs 50min 03sec
5. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 12hrs 13min 23sec
6. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabika (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo, 12hrs 55min 06sec
7. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Patrol Y62 (T2), 15hrs 33min 22sec
8. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 (T3), 16hrs 45min 30sec
9. Jose Luis Pena Campo (ESP)/Rafael Tornabell (ESP) Polaris RZR 1000 (T3), 18hrs 52min 05sec
10. Ahmed Shegawi (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Nissan Patrol Y61 (T2), 19hrs 41min 25sec
11. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 109hrs 06min 02sec
12. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Sergio Lafuente (UGY) Volkswagen Amarok, 111hrs 08min 07sec
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica, 16hrs 54min 32sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R, 20hrs 14min 29sec
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) Barren Racer BR 1690, 21hrs 01min 03sec
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions on SS4:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hrs 23min 02sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 3hrs 30min 19sec
3. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabika (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo, 3hrs 37min 54sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hrs 41min 07sec
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One, 3hrs 43min 52sec
6. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hrs 57min 52sec
7. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 4hrs 19min 53sec