Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Spain’s Joan Barreda and Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa confirmed victories in the car, motorcycle and quad categories at the Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Friday. Final stage victories fell to Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, Honda’s Helder Rodrigues and Abu Issa, although the Rodrigues stage time remains provisional.
Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel’s winning margin was 1hr 16min 56sec. The Qatari duly confirmed his second victory in the progressive Sealine event in three years. He moves into contention for a second FIA World Cup success and will now represent the X-raid team at next month’s Pharoahs Rally in Egypt.
“This was a very tough race and I am so happy to win at home,” said Al-Attiyah. “I am also very pleased for Matthieu. This was a big test for him and we made only one small mistake all week. That was a superb job with such difficult navigation. I tried not to damage the car and drive safely, but also quickly. The Mini was perfect.”
FIA World Cup leader Vladimir Vasilyev and last year’s winning co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov managed to overhaul Poland’s Adam Malysz (Toyota) to claim second position in a second Mini All4 Racing. Malysz fell behind team-mate Marek Dabrowski as well and slipped to fourth over the closing kilometres.
Barreda played the Honda motorcycle tactics to perfection to catch KTM’s Marc Coma on the stage and race with the defending champion to the finish to claim a second successive FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship win for Team HRC Rally.
“This is really good,” said a delighted Barreda. “We are all now, as a team, at a high level. The bikes, the riders and the mechanics are all working together and it is nearly one year ago in Sardinia since KTM won a World Championship race. We have been improving all the time and Paolo’s (Goncalves) win in Abu Dhabi and my win here is fantastic. I was disappointed after the Dakar, but this is special.”
Coma held on to seal second position, a mere 1min 23sec behind Barreda, and the unofficial fastest time on the final stage moved Rodrigues into an unofficial final podium place.
“You know I push as hard as I could, but the starting order did not work in our favour at all,” said Coma. “I lost some vital time on the first day and this is a short race and there is no way to make up that time. I am still happy with my performance.”
Thirty-four minutes lost on day three after navigational delays cost Poland’s Rafal Sonik dearly and he was never going to be able to recoup that loss and prevent the host nation’s Abu Issa from taking a hard-earned quad title by a comfortable margin.
“A great feeling to win here and brilliant to cross the last dunes where I normally come and play,” said Abu Issa. “My strategy was to follow Rafal this morning and catch him and I did that. But, then I punctured and had to stop and then had to catch him again.
SS5 – as it happened
The final 362.97km selective section headed due west across the south of Qatar to the western coast and then down the coastline before cutting across Saudi border country to finish close to Sealine. There were three passage controls at 150.18km, 201.37km and 292.88km.
Paolo Goncalves opened the road for the motorcycle riders and still had a chance of winning his second successive event provided that he could maintain his composure and not make a navigational mistake. Barreda needed to catch and stay with Coma to earn Honda another scalp. Thirteen bikes and two quads started the special.
Predictably, the leading five riders pulled clear of the rest of the field from the outset and Barreda had managed to catch and pass Coma by the first checkpoint and overturned the overnight deficit. The new rally leader was now in the group of five leading riders and one navigational mistake would be catastrophic. Faria had endured a miserable Sealine outing, but the KTM rider was running second fastest at PC1. Abu Issa caught Sonik and the pair passed PC1 together, as the Qatari closed in on the quad title.
Barreda’s lead was pegged back to 1min 45sec through PC2, but the Honda rider maintained the advantage heading down Qatar’s west coast towards the third checkpoint.
Varela was in good form from the start and passed PC1 2min 49sec faster than a cautious Al-Attiyah in the car section, but Malysz had already dropped over seven minutes to Vasilyev and looked set to lose out on second overall. Krzysztof Holowczyc dropped further time with navigational problems.
Varela maintained his pace through PC2 to keep the unofficial stage lead and Vasilyev continued to edge clear of Malysz in his quest for second position. Barreda shadowed Coma through the third and final PC, as the leading quintet of riders made their way to the finish. Pole Martin Kaczmarski retired his Mini from sixth overall with a broken wheel after 175km.
There were no late dramas for Al-Attiyah, Barreda or Abu Issa and the Spaniard and the two Qataris reached Sealine to confirm their wins in the three categories. Vasilyev managed to hold off Dabrowski and Malysz for second place in the cars and Rodrigues and Viladoms shadowed Barreda and Coma to the finish on two wheels, although KTM looked likely to query the final stage time set by Rodrigues as we closed for press.
2014 Sealine Cross-Country Rally – overall positions after SS5 – unofficial @ 13.00hrs:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 17hr 22min 51sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 18hr 39min 47sec
3. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Toyota Hilux 18hr 59min 47sec
4. Adam Malysz (POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux 19hr 02min 51sec
5. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Toyota Hilux 19hr 17min 21sec
6. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) Hummer H3 20hr 30min 42sec
7. Andrey Cherednikov (KAZ)/Dmitro Tsyro (KAZ) Toyota 21hr 20min 20sec
1. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda CRF 450 20hr 28min 46sec
2. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 20hr 30min 09sec
3. Helder Rodrigues (PRT) Honda CRF 450 20hr 30min 36sec*
4. Jordi Viladoms (ESP) KTM 450 20hr 36min 05sec
4. Paolo Goncalves (PRT) Honda CRF 450 20hr 38min 16sec
6. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 23hr 41min 22sec
7. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) Honda TRX 680 24hr 44min 56sec
8. Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 700 25hr 17min 12sec
*Note: Results exclude additional time penalties and any protest reviews that may be added later by race officials.