Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi led from the start of Tuesday’s third stage around the remote deserts of the Mangystau oblast to record a second successive quickest time in what is turning out to be a tough test of man and machine at Rally Kazakhstan.
The Mini John Cooper Works Rally driver carded a time of 4hrs 12min 10sec to beat Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by 5min 05sec, but it mattered little to Al-Attiyah after the Saudi’s substantial time penalties after day one. The second quickest time on the demanding section enabled the Qatari to extend his outright lead over Jakub Przygonski to 8min 53sec.
“We had another good day and we enjoyed it a lot. We pushed hard from the start and we had a good rhythm to the finish,” said Al-Rajhi. “The dunes today were even more difficult, very slow with bushes and some bumps. Between the bushes was where we could have problems.”
Pole Przygonski remains Al-Attiyah’s closest challenger in the second of the X-raid Minis, but the Orlen Team driver dropped valuable minutes after a minor navigational mistake, but retains second place.
At 421km, the day’s selective section was the longest of the event and ran inland, south of Zhanaozen, and then deep into the heart of the Mangystau oblast. It finished a short distance from Kenderly via a winding trail that ran close to the small town of Senek.
Al-Attiyah, driving an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, said: “It was a good day for us. We try to control our pace. Yazeed was pushing because he doesn’t have anything to lose. I am happy with the car. Everything is working very well. We enjoyed the stage. I am really surprised about these stages. It is not easy!”
Poland’s Aron Domzala was in good form in the second of the Toyotas. He and navigator Maciej Marton tightened their grip on third overall with the fourth quickest time, despite one puncture and the driver commenting about the bumpy nature of one section of dunes. Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal maintains a solid fourth in his Hummer H3 and Yuriy Sazonov remains on course for a top five finish for the host nation in a second Hummer.
Kazakh Yerden Shagirov and Lithuania’s Antanas Juknevicius are sixth and seventh overall, while Yasir Saiedan is a distant eighth overall and well clear of any of his rivals in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles.
Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa took the decision to withdraw from ninth position after a third day with minor niggling issues. “We had some electrical problems. It was just a fuse. Nothing big. We thought it might be bigger than that and didn’t want to break the engine. It’s better to happen now than in Dakar. I decided to stop now. We had some small technical issues every day. We bent the jack on day one, the fuel was dirty and it blocked our fuel filter and we cannot test anything because the stages are too long. I know kilometers are important but, at this point, I’m going home to refocus for Italy.”
Delays in the sand dunes cost Qatar’s Adel Abdulla a lot of time on the day’s special, although the Nissan Patrol driver retains second in T2 after mechanical issues for AMFK President Marat Abykayev and previous time penalties for the likes of Kirill Chernenkov and Pavel Loginov.
Frenchman Claude Fournier continues to run near the rear of the field in his T3 Polaris RR 1000.
The fourth selective section of 276.2km and the second of the loops out of Kenderly on Wednesday is the most remote of the entire event. A liaison of 111.1km takes crews through Zhanaozen and on to the stage start to the west of Senek. The route then heads north-west and deep into the Mangystau wilderness before turning east and then looping back to finish on the road between Senek and Zhanaozen. A 118km liaison then takes teams back to the Kenderly Sea Resort.
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