Al-Attiyah, Coma and Sonik claim outright victories in Qatar's Sealine Cross-Country Rally
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Spain's Marc Coma and Poland's Rafal Sonik claimed outright victories in their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after the final 208.63km special stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Saturday.
Stage wins on the final day fell to Al-Attiyah, Spain's Joan Barreda Bort and Sonik in the three respective categories.
Al-Attiyah began the stage defending a massive lead of 46m 09s in his Overdrive Toyota Hilux and there was no way that the Qatari was going to throw away a crucial home victory by taking unnecessary risks. He judged his pace over the final stage to perfection to confirm a 49m 23s win.
"This is a fantastic win for me and a chance to win another event in another car," said Al-Attiyah. "The Toyota was impressive, so much so that I would like to continue in the championship in places where there are no clashes with the MERC and WRC.
"After winning the Bajas here, the Sealine event was totally different. It was a proper cross-country event. The stages were rough, challenging and never easy. It was a superb effort by the team at the QMMF to make such a good rally so soon after entering the championship."
Argentina's Lucio Alvarez benefited from Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei's last stage delays to confirm a fine second overall in another Toyota and Al-Mutaiwei managed to stay in front of FIA World Cup rival Jean-Louis Schlesser to clinch the final podium position in his Mini All4 Racing. The Toyota one-two was the biggest result in the history of Overdrive Racing and a first win for the Japanese manufacturer on a cross-country rally.
Coma headed Portugal's Helder Rodrigues by 5m 59s at the start of the day and needed to run quickly with the leaders to avoid losing too much time to the Portuguese on the day's special. He started in third, with Rodrigues in eighth, and reached the finish with the second quickest time to record a comfortable 6m 05s victory over Rodrigues, the defending FIM champion.
Jordi Viladoms finished third on his Bordone-Ferrari Team KTM, Poland's Jakub Przygonski was fourth and Portugal's Ruben Faria rounded off the top five, but the results were provisional pending an investigation into a missing stamp on a couple of time cards.
Emirati Obaid Al-Kitbe started the final stage with a 6m 58s lead over Poland's Rafal Sonik in the quad category, but mechanical problems wrecked the UAE rider's chance of lifting the title and Sonik powered through to the finish, with Uruguay's Luis Henderson finishing second and Qatar's Adel Hussain Abdullah taking third place.
Stage four – 208.63km
X-raid mechanics worked into the evening to repair the extensive panel damage on Yazeed Al-Rajhi's Mini All4 Racing after the Saudi's accident on Friday. The defending Ha'il Baja champion was permitted to start in ninth position, with Al-Attiyah, Schlesser and Al-Mutaiwei leading the cars away.
Mubarak Al-Hajri's American mechanics needed to identify the electrical problem that had plagued his Chevrolet LS3 on day three before the Qatari could restart from a lowly 15th overall.
Husqvarna also took the decision to permit a shaken Joan Borreda Bort to restart after his crash on Friday morning. The Spaniard had finished the stage badly bruised and with broken handlebars on his bike, but started the stage from 29th position.
Goncalves led the surviving bike and quad riders into the 71.64km liaison to the start of the final stage, with leader Coma slotting into third behind Jordi Viladoms. Quad leader Obaid Al-Kitbe was running in 17th place on the road, three positions behind the previous stage winner, Lukasz Laskawiec.
Viladoms swiftly caught and passed Goncalves as Coma shadowed the pair to the first control point. Australian Matthew Fish was also running well and held the virtual stage lead at PC1 under Barreda Bort stormed through to set the fastest time. Al-Kitbe headed the quad contingent from Sonik and Laskawiec.
The first bikes reached PC2 before the cars had arrived at the first checkpoint and Coma regained the stage advantage from Viladoms and Goncalves, but Barreda Bort set the fastest time to that point.
Coma held on without problems to claim his second successive outright FIM World Cup victory, with Rodrigues finishing the stage in third position to consolidate second overall. Barreda Bort ended a troubled rally with the fastest time of the day, a scant consolation for his obvious pace on the Husqvarna during the event.
Al-Attiyah reached the first PC in under 52 minutes and was followed by Schlesser and Russian Boris Gadasin. Al-Mutaiwei lost a valuable 8m 14s to his French rival for the World Cup after losing his way.
Vladimir Vasilyev was in storming form with his G-Force Proto after a troubled event: the Russian was quickest overall to the first control point, as Alvarez settled into a fast pace and Al-Mutaiwei's problems meant that he was secure in second place. Yazeed Al-Rajhi punctured and had a small fire near the brakes and decided to stop his rebuilt Mini in the stage.
Al-Attiyah reached the last passage control in 1h 26m 43s, where Vasilyev saw his virtual stage lead whittled down to 20 seconds. The Qatari held on to finish the stage in a quickest time of 1h 53m 21s and Lucio Alvarez confirmed second overall at the expense of third-placed Al-Mutaiwei.