– Al-Attiyah misses out on potential victory after cruel late mechanical issue
– Dutchman Van Loon rolls twice and finishes ninth; De Vlliers sidelined early on
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiuah suffered a cruel mechanical failure on the final stage of an enthralling Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally that deprived the long-time leader of a much-needed victory in his Toyota GAZOO Racing Team South Africa Hilux.
He and French navigator Matthieu Baumel had won the first four stages and were playing the strategy game to perfection by shadowing rival Jakub Przygonski through the final kilometres. But the mechanical failure cost the defending FIA World Cup champion a possible 60 points and leaves him with his work cut out to defend the title this year.
Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan and French navigator Laurent Lichtleuchter sealed a podium finish in the second of the Overdrive Racing-run Toyotas and Poland’s Aron Domzala and Maciej Marton were fourth overall in a third car after a drama-filled five days in the Qatar deserts.
The Dutch crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar survived two gentle rolls in the team’s fourth car and set some competitive stage times on the other three selective sections to finish ninth overall.
Giniel de Villiers and navigator Robert Howie made their first appearance in Qatar in a second Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa Hilux and were second quickest through the opening super special stage. But a heavy landing in a hole on the first desert stage caused Howie to complain of serious back pain and the decision was taken to withdraw the car as a precaution while Howie went to hospital for precautionary checks.
A disappointed Al-Attiyah said: “This is rally. This is a new car. From two days ago we had a small issue with the engine but we tried to keep going. Suddenly, today, we had an oil pressure alarm and we stopped immediately. We finished at 210km I think. When we see the alarm it was over. We had no plans for Silk Way before but, maybe now, we have a chance to do this big race in the summer!