Local star Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator edged into a lead of 3min 05sec at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally after the short opening loop section of 109.76km through the central Qatar deserts on Friday.
The short opened didn’t feature any passage controls or decidedly tricky navigation and the five-time event winner was comfortable at the wheel of his Toyota Hilux on the way to the fastest time of 52min 40sec.
Al-Attiyah said: “For a short stage, to have a lead of 3min 05sec is very good. Tomorrow will be a long stage. I am quite happy. It was a little bit tricky today with the navigation but we did not have any mistakes.”
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski opened the day’s proceedings on the short loop with new navigator Timo Gottschalk in the first of two MINI John Cooper Works Rally derivatives on a timed test that started 66.34km from the Lusail Sports Arena at the village of Al-Kharsaah. The Pole continued to run first on the road, although Al-Attiyah overtook Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev (fifth overall) and began to close in on the MINI as the stage progressed, before overtaking the Pole near the end of the special that also finished close to Al-Kharsaah.
Przygonski overcame the disadvantage of opening the road to card the fourth fastest time with Al-Attiyah’s team-mates Bernhard Ten Brinke and Yazeed Al-Rajhi completing an Overdrive Racing 1-2-3 for Toyota. Seventh-placed Yasir Seaidan lost over nine minutes with navigational issues and a flat tyre and that delay opened the door for Italian Eugenio Amos to snatch sixth place in his Ford 2WD Buggy.
“It was a very good start” said Ten Brinke. “It was not an easy stage. Tom (Colsoul) did a good job and we had a good rhythm and the Toyota was good. Still, it is the first day. The navigation had a couple of difficult points and we drive for around 30km in the dust and lost a little bit of time.”
Al-Rajhi added: “I am quite happy with third place today. It is the first time in a new car with a new co-driver and a lot of experience. Our target was to be able to follow Nasser tomorrow into the longer stage and try to push a little bit.”
Przygonski said: “It was tricky. It was the first time together, but we made no mistakes. There is good co-operation between us. We are trying to find the same language and are working together in English. We are starting further behind tomorrow, so it will be easier with the lines.”
Seaidan reflected on the day’s stage: “We had a navigational problem and got lost three times and we had a flat tyre 10km from the stage finish. We got stuck behind one of the Hiluxes in the dust and e hit a rock. But we are glad that we finished.”
Mohammed Al-Attiyah and Uruguayan navigator Sergio Lafuente topped the times in the T3 category in their Can-Am Maverick X3. The Qatari finished just under a minute in front of the Brazilian Monster Energy Can-Am duo of Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla drove his T3 Can-Am Maverick 3 for the first time with new Spanish navigator Marc Serra and held third in T3. He said: “It was complicated today. My start position was not perfect. When the drivers in T1s behind catch you, you are always looking in the mirror and not pushing. Then they pass and you need to slow down. So two cars pass and you lose, maybe two minutes, and you are in the dust. The communication between us was okay. You are outside completely in the T3 and the nose of the car is very short.”
Qatar’s Khalid Al-Mohannadi and Mubarak Al-Khelaifi stopped early in the stage with mechanical issues, with the former losing over 30 minutes and the latter over an hour. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna gave his Mercedes Unimog truck its Qatar debut and held the T4 advantage and 16th overall.
The day’s short stage also acted as the first of three rounds of the Qatar Manateq Baja held in conjunction with the FIA event and acting as the fourth of six rounds of the championship. No less than 22 drivers were registered to score points. Mohammed Al-Attiyah led the way from Mohammed Al-Meer (T2 leader) and Adel Abdullah, all three of whom are also tackling the FIA event.
Crews tackle a punishing 323.58km selective section across some of the most remote areas of the country on Saturday. The stage gets underway at 08.45hrs after a road liaison of 69.14km from Lusail Sports Arena. A second road section of 77.15km returns teams to the service park in the early afternoon.
2019 Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1 (unofficial @ 15.40hrs)
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 52min 40sec
2. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 55min 45sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 56min 40sec
4. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 57min 11sec
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) BMW X3 CC 57min 21sec
6. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Ford 2WD Buggy 59min 49sec
7. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 1hr 06min 49sec
8. Mohammed Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick T3 1hr 11min 37sec
9. Mohammed Al-Meer (QAT)/Alexey Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Land Cruiser T2 1hr 12min 13sec
10. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick T3 1hr 12min 28sec
11. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F150 Evo 1hr 13min 18sec
12. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Marc Serra (ESP) Can-Am Maverick T3 1hr 15min 11sec
13. Abdullah Al-Zubair (OMN)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Can-Am Maverick T3 1hr 16min 24sec
14. Michele Cinotto (ITA)/Maurizio Dominella (ITA) Polaris RZR 1000 T T3 1hr 21min 46sec
15. Mohammed Al-Harqan (QAT)/Vili Oslaj (SLO) Nissan Patrol T2 1hr 23min 19sec
16. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna (SAU)/Osama Al-Sanad (SAU) Mercedes Unimog T4 1hr 27min 29sec
17. Fedor Vorobeyev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 T3 1hr 32min 49sec
18. Camelia Liparoti (ITA)/Max Delfino (FRA) Yamaha YZX 1000 R T3 1hr 48min 24sec
19. Khalid Al-Mohannadi (QAT)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 T3 1hr 56min 30sec
20. Mubarak Al-Khelaifi (QAT)/Francois Cazelet (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 T3 2hrs 38min 14sec
2019 Qatar Manateq Baja – round 1 (unofficial @ 15.40hrs)
1. Mohammed Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick T3 1hr 11min 37sec
2. Mohammed Al-Meer (QAT)/Alexey Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Land Cruiser T2 1hr 12min 13sec
3. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Marc Serra (ESP) Can-Am Maverick T3 1hr 15min 11sec