Qatar's Nasser Saleh al Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel overcame hefty penalties that were added to their overall time to regain the outright lead with the fastest time on the 340.54km selective section of the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally on Friday.
The Toyota Hilux driver started the day with a stage lead of 16min 07sec, but incurred 15 minutes of time penalties for missing a waypoint and a further two for a speeding violation. He came under fierce pressure early in the day's special in the north of Qatar from closest Polish rival Jakub Przygonski in an X-raid-run MINI John Cooper Works Rally, but the former enduro rider ceded time from then on and now trails the Qatari by 7min 26sec.
The day's 340.54km selective section began to the north of Losail and passed around the northern extremities of the country before cutting across the uppermost deserts to run down the western coast to finish off the Al Kharsaah Road, west of Doha.
Attiyah said:"We did a good job today after the road penalties and we push for the last 180km. We feel a piece of the right rear tyre coming off because of the heat, but we decided to continue. I am quite happy to have a good stage. Tomorrow we need to make a good time in the dunes at the start of the stage."
"It is a tough race with the navigation and a lot can happen," said Przygonski."We know there are tough penalties for missing waypoints. Today was quite a tough stage. We had to be really focused. In the beginning we were quite fast and, in the middle, we were too slow.
"We lose some time with the navigation and then we pushed for the last 100km and gained some time. Still the fight is on. One small mistake in navigation and you can lose all the time. The dunes may be an advantage to Nasser. He knows the area and they are not big dunes. He may win some time there but, at least, we will have his line."
Vladimir Vasilyev benefited from time penalties for both Yasir Seaidan and Aron Domzala, but that did not detract from an excellent stage performance by the Russian in his G-Energy Team MINI One. He carded the third quickest time to move up to a similar position in the overall rankings.
Despite his own time penalties, Saudi Arabia's Yasir Seaidan was in an excellent pace for much of the day's stage in his Overdrive Toyota and was running a mere two seconds behind Attiyah at one point. He lost some time late on but the fourth quickest time enabled the defending FIA T2 World Champion to hold fifth position. Poland's Aron Domzala held fourth in the third of the Toyotas.
FIA World Cup leader Martin Prokop completed the day with the sixth quickest time to maintain a similar place in the overall standings. He remains on track for a vital haul of championship points.
Dutchman Erik van Loon suffered a gentle roll shortly after the fourth passage control and lost the chance of a top-five stage finish. He will incur hefty penalties before the restart on Saturday after waiting for a fellow competitor to tow the Toyota back on to its wheels.
Qatar's Adel Abdulla stayed out of trouble over the treacherous terrain and maintained a safe pace to extend his T2 category lead in a Nissan Patrol Y62 backed by the QMMF and Ooredoo. All his rivals suffered long delays in the desert.
A focused Adel said:"We decide to push again today to make even more of a gap. We were pushing hard, but fast and clean. When we reached some tough places we slowed down and then we pushed again. We had only one flat tyre and we stopped to change it no other problems. The navigation was really tricky, particularly at the beginning and in the middle of the stage.
"Nasser (al Kuwari) did a good job. We work together to share information and we are happy. When you go very slow you make mistakes, but we will take no risks now. We will try to find a good way to finish. The dunes tomorrow are in our area. We are able to deflate the tyres and stop and put the pressure back, so no need to take risks."
Frenchman Claude Fournier extended his advantage in T3 after further delays for Spain's Jose Luis Pena Campo, Italy's Michele Cinotto and Spaniard Santiago Navarro.
Russian quad rider Alexsandr Maksimov extended his advantage over Dutch rival Kees Koolen to 40min 19sec after a measured run at the front of the entire field. Polish Orlen Team rider Maciej Giemza safely negotiated the special after falling behind the leading cars and the top quad to remain on course for maximum FIM World Cup points.
Tomorrow (Saturday), the penultimate stage of 324.98km starts to the south of Doha to the west of the industrial town of Mesaieed and then heads south through the sand dunes, north of the Inland Sea, before turning north through the middle of the country and then heading up the western coast to finish at Al Wabra, west of Doha.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS3 (unofficial @ 15.15hrs): Cars
1. Nasser Saleh al Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hrs 03min 17sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 7hrs 10min 48sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 7hrs 29min 04sec
4. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hrs 53min 30sec
5. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 8hrs 08min 56sec
6. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabiska (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 9hrs 02min 12sec
7. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Nasser al Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Patrol Y62 (T2) 10hrs 13min 48sec
8. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 (T3) 11hrs 11min 02sec
TBA. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Sergio Lafuente (UGY) Volkswagen Amarok 105hrs 44min 15sec
TBA. Santiago Navarro (ESP)/Pwsdro Lopez (ESP) Yamaha XYZ 1000R (T3) 105hrs 51min 52sec.
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 11hrs 54min 08sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R 14hrs 25min 49sec
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) Barren Racer BR 169015hrs 06min 08sec
Qatar Cross-Country Rally – SS3: Cars
1. Nasser Saleh al Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hrs 07min 36sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 3hrs 15min 55sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 3hrs 17min 04sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hrs 19min 16sec
5. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hrs 34min 38sec
6. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabiška (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 4hrs 11min 14sec.
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