Partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Qatar’s Al Attiyah won Tuesday’s 280km Al Ain Water Stage, his third stage win in a row, to extend his lead to 15 mins 19 secs from Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov, who climbed one place during the leg in their Mini All4Racing.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gotschalk, in another Mini, slipped one place to third, and are another six minutes off the pace, although the nature of this demanding event means it would be wrong to discount any of the leading challengers with two days remaining.
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, Finn Mikko Hirvonen and American Bryce Menzies, in three other Minis, completed the top six in the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, as the previous day’s wind and rain was replaced by typical desert weather.
Al Attiyah was visibly delighted with his effort and said: “It was a good day. I got into good rhythm early on. There are some sharp dunes but the Toyota worked really well, and the navigation was perfect.”
Vasilyev, whose co-driver Zhiltsov was celebrating his 51st birthday, said: “Today was a good day for an Abu Dhabi race. We had a good rhythm and not a bad result. We couldn’t catch Nasser, but we made no mistakes, we didn’t get stuck.”