Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland and Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa won the punishing 396.46km second selective section of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Tuesday.
Al Attiyah led from start-to-finish in a Mini All4 Racing and extended his lead to 24min 29sec over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, driving an Overdrive Toyota Hilux.
“It was a good day, no problems,” said the Qatari. “To be the first car and open the road is not easy, but the feeling with the car was incredible.Maybe I'll soften the rear suspension tomorrow to make the wheels travel better over the rocky ground, but I am not worried about opening again. I am very happy.”
Al Rajhi was upbeat despite losing his way three times. “I started well and was driving well. Then we lost our way. It is easy to do that in Qatar. There were three Minis going round and round until one of us found the track. I lost four or five minutes, but the goal was to be in front of Vladimir (Vasilyev) and I am doing that, so that’s okay.”
Overnight motorcycle leader Joan Barreda was always going to struggle opening the stage and he reached the finish in sixth position, as Sunderland claimed the stage win and climbed from seventh overall to fifth.
“It looks good on paper to have won the stage, but the strategy and the tactics mean that I will lose it all again tomorrow,” said Sunderland.
“[It was a] Nice stage…tricky navigation and it’s good to get the stage win, but this rally had no Prologue and my seeding position was not really favourable, so I’m back to square one again.”
Bikes leader Coma said: “Today was a better rhythm and a better balance for me.
“It’s a case of finding the balance between speed and concentrating on the navigation. To lead the way for 400km is never easy. Temperatures were not a factor, but the sand is more compact in the mornings and that helps a lot.”
In the quads category, Abu Issa was in inspired form on his Honda and managed to catch and ride with Poland’s Rafal Sonik to extend the lead he inherited on Monday when Sonik incurred a five-minute time penalty.
“I started two minutes behind Rafal (Sonik) and managed to catch and ride with him,” said Abu Issa. “Then, after 178km, at the refuel, I got fuel in my goggles and they began to melt.
“I had to ride on without goggles until Rafal lent me a pair of goggles. It was not comfortable at all, but I managed to keep the lead.”
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