Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Spaniard Joan Barreda and Poland’s Rafal Sonik were the early leaders of their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after the short opening 164.18km selective section of the 2014 Sealine Cross-Country Rally in the Qatar deserts.
Al-Attiyah was the class of the car field in his Mini All4 Racing. The 2012 winner began the day from fourth on the road and survived having to change a flat tyre after the second passage control to set a winning time of 1hr 34min 57sec.
The Qatari and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel take a lead of 2min 44sec over Mini team-mates Krzysztof Holowczyc and Andreas Schulz into the second stage on Tuesday.
“It was going well, no problems and then we had a flat tyre and had to stop and change it,” said Al-Attiyah. “It was only a short stage but the navigation was very tricky.”
Spanish rider Joan Barreda stormed through the field from ninth to seal a stunning opening stage win for Honda. The CRF 450 rider completed the stage 1min 02sec quicker than defending champion Marc Coma (KTM), with Jordi Viladoms reaching the flying finish in third place.
“I rode fast from the start and tried to push and then I slowed down a little in the dunes at the end. I did not want to make a mistake there. We have a good strategy for this race,” said Barreda Emirati rider Mohammed Al- Balooshi was an impressive fourth.
“At the moment my navigational skills cannot match my pace. I need to practice my navigation."
Poland’s Rafal Sonik held ninth overall and was the quickest of the three quad riders on his Honda.
Mohammed Abu Issa was a close second and a mere three seconds in front of Adel Hussein, who lost time after problems with his road book scroll.
“After the last tarmac road, the scroll broke on my road book and I kept having to stop and turn it manually,” said Qatar’s Adel Hussein.
Abu Issa said: “It was a short stage, but very tough. It was harder than I imagined today. I need new knuckles!”
Red Bull KTM factory team rider Sam Sunderland lost his way before the first passage control and dropped over 16 minutes to the leaders trying to regain the correct track.
He finished the day in a disappointing seventh position after a late charge through the stage.
On Tuesday, competitors tackle a 396.46km loop stage through the Qatar desert, with the bikes leading the way in what promises to be a cooler and even more demanding challenge, starting at the earlier time of 07:00.
The event finishes at Sealine on Friday afternoon.
1. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda 1:42:31sec
2. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 1:43:33s
3. Jordi Viladoms (ESP) KTM 450 1:47:43s
4. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 1:49:34s
5. Helder Rodrigues (PR T) Honda CRF 1:51: 55s
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 1hr 34min 57sec
2. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Andreas Schulz (GER) Mini All4 Racing 1hr 37min 41sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 1hr 44min 21sec
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (GER) Toyota Hiux 1hr 46min 31sec
5. Adam Malysz (POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux 1hr 46min 41sec
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