Qatar Cross-Country Rally – April 17-22, 2017
2017 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, round 4
LOSAIL (Qatar): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Frenchman Antoine Meo and Peru’s Alexis Hernandez Ponce entertained the crowds with the fastest times in the car, motorcycle and quad categories through the opening 4.85km super special stage of the Qatar Cross-Country Rally at Losail on Tuesday afternoon.
Run over a purpose-built track that featured jumps and water splashes and sections of Losail’s motocross course, the stage was also used to determine the all-important starting order for the first of four desert selective sections on Wednesday.
Al-Attiyah was 1.8 seconds quicker than Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the cars, while Leeroy Poulter slotted into third place on his Qatar debut with a South African-built Toyota Hilux. “I had a test in the car yesterday and there was a little pain from the crash in Abu Dhabi, but nothing too serious,” said Al-Attiyah. “I will see what develops. If I have to push, then I will.”
The tactical game began in earnest in the motorcycles and the stage win for Frenchman Antoine Meo enabled him to choose the most favourable starting position for the desert action. With the event reduced from five to four desert sections this year, a different strategy may pan out amongst the factory riders. Red Bull KTM team-mate Matthias Walkner finished second and Sam Sunderland gave the Austrian manufacturer a 1-2-3 finish.
Alexis Hernandez Ponce was the class of the quad field on his Yamaha Raptor. Rafal Sonik switched from a Honda to a Yamaha to finish second and Dutchman Kees Koolen third. Saudi riders Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi and Sultan Al-Masood also entered on their Yamahas, but were not registered for FIM Quad World Cup points. South Africa’s Martin Beyers dropped seven minutes to the leaders.
Before they tackled the stage, 25 FIA cars and 10 more running in the National Baja, along with 13 motorcycles and nine quads were flagged away from a ceremonial start by QMMF President Abdulrahman Al-Mannai, with the honour of first into the stage falling to Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi on his Yamaha YFZ 450R.
Earlier in the day, 11 competitors had joined Al-Mannai at the official pre-event press conference at Losail. Riders Sam Sunderland, Pierre Alexandre Renet, Paulo Gonçalves, Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Rafal Sonik joined car drivers Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, Martin Prokop and the Qatari duo of Mohammed Abu Issa and Adel Abdulla at the media event.
Prokop said: “I have a car that was based upon one driven by Miroslav Zapletal and we are developing it now and are confident for the future. I have heard many stories about this event and the tricky navigation and my co-driver Jan (Tomanek) is quite worried and knows he will need to work hard.”
Defending motorcycle champion Sunderland is focused and determined to continue his winning run. “We know how difficult this rally can be and in terms of the navigation but this one and Abu Dhabi are strategic rallies. That’s the nature of them. I guess the end of the stage is a bit like a motocross with everyone jostling for position, but we have to deal with that.”
Honda’s Kevin Benavides blotted his copybook by falling and damaging his bike during a test session on Monday afternoon and defending FIM World Champion Pablo Quintanilla was forced to miss the pre-event press conference to visit hospital for treatment after sustaining a slight injury on Monday afternoon in another test.
A fascinating battle is anticipated in the T2 car category. Qatar’s Adel Abdulla, driving a Nissan Patrol, snatched an early 5.6- second lead over Saudi rival Yasir Saeidan. Abu Dhabi’s Mansour Al-Helai was a further second behind.
“I thank the QMMF, Nissan Qatar and Ooredoo for their support,” said Qatar’s defending FIA T2 champion Adel Abdulla at the pre-event press conference. “This is my home event and it is special to me. I need to close the gap on the leader in the championship. That is the goal this week.”
Frenchman Claude Fournier topped the T3 standings and first blood amongst the 10 competitors in the Qatar National Baja went to a flying Ahmed Allouh in his Polaris. Khalid Al-Mohannadi was second in a similar car.
Tomorrow (Wednesday), is the first of four desert selective sections at the Qatar Cross-Country Rally. Competitors will tackle a 334.08km section that starts near the village of Rawdat Rashed in the municipality of Al-Rayyan and finishes south of the former Sealine bivouac, 93.72km from Losail, after taking in a westerly and southerly loop of the State of Qatar.
2017 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1 (unofficial)
Cars – FIA
Cars – National
Quads – FIM
Quads – non-FIM
Wednesday, April 19 – spectator points
|SS km||GPS Coordinates||Remarks||1st bike||1st car|
|31,66||25° 22.766’N 51° 1.023’E||Dukhan highway / Al Kharsaah rd||07.29||08:59|
|50,77||25° 19.676’N 50° 53.023’E||Dukhan highway / Zughayn al Bahth rd||07.40||09:10|
|85,10||25° 14.207’N 50° 58.644’E||Umm Bab / Al Kharsaah rd||08:01||09:31|
|85,42||25° 14.336’N 50° 58.764’E||Umm Bab / Al Kharsaah rd||08:01||09:31|
|87,01||25° 14.933’N 50° 59.423’E||Umm Bab / Al Kharsaah rd||08:02||09:32|
|106,30||25° 9.647’N 51° 4.684’E||PC1 – Umm Bab rd||08:13||09:43|
|193,72||24° 50.222’N 51° 2.746’E||PC3 – Al Aamriya rd||09:21||10:36|
|248,74||24° 58.429’N 51° 16.295’E||PC4 – Al Kaharrara rd||09:54||11:09|
|334,33||24° 52.760’N 51° 30.056’E||SS2 STOP (sharp dunes before the finish)||10:45||12:00|
Follow the rally live
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2017 Qatar Cross-Country Rally, Qatar mobile: + 974 55747423, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases). Facebook group: FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. Twitter: @LordPerkins