Raring to go

Dubai’s Khalifa Al Mutaiwei and German co-driver Andreas Schulz climbed to third overall after a repeat run through the 330.51km desert special stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar on Thursday.

Published: Fri 20 Apr 2012, 1:06 PM

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

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah saw his overnight lead of 11m 07s reduced by a one-minute speeding penalty before the action resumed, but he finished the second day with an overall advantage over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi of 8m 55s, who drove superbly to record the fastest stage time in his Mini All4 Racing, despite collecting a puncture near the end.

Al Mutaiwei was delighted to move up to third overall in the rankings at the expense of Faisal Al Attiyah, Lucio Alvarez and Jean-Louis Schlesser. “I drove flat out today with no thought of the risk of punctures,” said Al Mutaiwei.

“I was 20 minutes faster today than I was yesterday. It was a smooth run with no problems. My main target was to get ahead of Schlesser and I achieved that as well as making up two more places.”

Spain’s Marc Coma now has a reduced overall lead of 68 seconds over Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues in the motorcycle category after the pair finished the day’s stage together. Joan Barreda Bort was the revelation of the day after incurring a crippling two-hour penalty on Wednesday evening for an alleged route violation.

The Spaniard mounted a superb charge through the field on Thursday to win the special by 7m 10s, but a game of cat and mouse is now expected between Coma and Rodrigues over the final two days. Spain’s Jordi Viladoms climbed to third overall and the UAE’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi enjoyed a useful run to set the 12th fastest time and climb to 11th position. The UAE’s Obaid Al Kitbe set the third quickest time in the quad category behind Poland’s Lukasz Laskawiec and Qatar’s Adel Hussain Abdullah. Al Mutaiwei — running under the Fazza Rally Team banner — started the stage from third position on the road behind Al Attiyah and Schlesser. The Qatari had been penalised one minute at the overnight halt for speeding in the stage and saw his overall lead over Al-Rajhi reduced to 10m 07s.

Al Mutaiwei reached the first checkpoint in third position, 2m 37s in front of Schlesser as he attempted to make inroads into the Frenchman’s hold on fifth position. Al Rajhi was the early pacesetter in another Mini All4 Racing and the Saudi continued to edge away from Al Attiyah on the stage as the leading cars reached PC2.

Al Mutaiwei had already climbed above Schlesser and fulfilled one of his goals for the day. The Emirati reached PC2 over 12 minutes clear of the struggling Frenchman and had moved up to a virtual fifth overall. The next target was Faisal Al Attiyah’s hold on fourth position, as the Mini All4 Racing driver continued to pull away from Schlesser.

By the end of the stage he was over 15 minutes in front of the Frenchman and heads into stage three, 13m 49s in front of his rival and also in front of Qatar’s Faisal Al Attiyah and Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez.

Tomorrow, competitors tackle the longest stage of the entire event — a 357.99km loop through the southern Qatar desert. The first bike will start at a similar time of 6am, with the leading car joining the competition at 7.15am.

The stage starts in the same place, before heading west across the other side of the Salwa Road and then turning south towards Abu Samra and then east towards the Inland Sea. It offers faster, harder tracks, less sand dunes that the first two days and finishes in the same position.

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