Need for speed

Dubai’s Khalifa Al Mutaiwei and German co-driver Andreas Schulz maintained an impressive pace through the penultimate special stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar on Friday.

By Kt Report

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Published: Sat 21 Apr 2012, 11:44 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

The Fazza Rally Team duo recorded the fourth quickest time in their Mini All4 Racing and hold third heading into the final special stage on Saturday. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah used local knowledge to his advantage to record the fastest time in an Overdrive Toyota Hilux and will take a 46min 09sec lead into the final day.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi is not tackling the FIA World Cup but was the fastest man on the course for the first half of the day’s stage. A puncture and navigational issues cost him valuable time and then Al Rajhi rolled his Mini into retirement before the third passage control.

Al Mutaiwei will now start the final day 10min 41sec in front of arch championship rival Jean-Louis Schlesser and just 48 seconds behind second-placed Argentinean Lucio Alvarez, as the Emirati attempts to win the FIA World Cup for a second time this year after a seven-year absence from top-flight competition.

“We lost our way a little during the stage and that cost me a bit of time,” said Al Mutaiwei. “I took it a bit easier today. We were sometimes ahead of Schlesser and sometimes behind him. But I am happy with the position and need to stay in front of him on the final day.”

Spaniard Marc Coma was in superb form and took control of the motorcycle category after a dominant performance. He recorded the third fastest time behind stage winner Goncalves and Spaniard Jordi Viladoms and duly extended his overall lead over Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues to a comfortable 5m 59s.

Serious navigational woes cost Joan Barreda Bort dearly and his intended protest about a two-hour penalty would have little effect after the Spaniard dropped over 75 minutes in the day’s special. The UAE’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi recorded the 18th quickest time and maintained 12th in the overall classification

The UAE’s Obaid Al Kitbe finished the special shortly behind Poland’s Lukazs Laskawiec and that was sufficient to give the Emirati a 6min 58sec advantage over Poland’s Rafal Sonik in the quad category.

Al Mutaiwei knew that his hold on third position was by no means safe and the Emirati planned an attack – a similar strategy to the one that had worked so well on Thursday. He started second on the road behind Al Attiyah and in front of Schlesser, with the previous stage winner, Yazeed Al Rajhi, down in eighth position. The Fazza Rally Team star reached the mid-way checkpoint as the fifth car on the road, having dropped a little over three minutes to Schlesser.

Al Rajhi continued his impressive pace and carved a path through the field to beat Al Attiyah by 5m 17s to the motorcycle refuelling point. But a puncture and navigational errors soon plagued the Saudi and he lost valuable time.

Attiyah was running well ahead of the rest of the cars and was unaware of Al Rajhi’s problems behind. Schlesser reached the third control just in front of Al Mutaiwei, but saw his virtual stage advantage over the Dubai driver reduced to 2m 14s. It was not enough for the Frenchman to make in-roads into Al Mutaiwei’s hold on third position.

Tomorrow, teams tackle a shorter 208.63km special stage that starts 71.64km from the Sealine campsite and finishes at the same place. The first bike leave the overnight halt at 05.45am and begins the special at 7am, with the leading car leaving at 7am and starting at 8.15am.

Triumphant riders and drivers will then attend the official post-event press conference at 2.30pm, before the podium finish takes place at the bivouac from 4pm.

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