Poland's Jakub Przygonski and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul confirmed a dramatic and vital victory in the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally after overnight leader Nasser Saleh al Attiyah suffered terminal engine issues on the run down Qatar's west coast on the final stage on Sunday.
The MINI John Cooper Works Rally crew trailed Qatar's defending champion and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel by 14min 43sec at the start of the final stage of 331.84km.
Attiyah was prepared to play the strategy game and that enabled the Pole to overtake the Toyota and lead the way through most of a stage that cut across the country's central deserts before skirting the western coastline and then finished with a traditional sprint along a sandy beach to the flying finish near Sealine.
The plan appeared to be working well for Attiyah until he suffered terminal engine issues between the third and fourth passage controls and this opened the door for Przygonski to romp home and claim a famous victory and a 31-point lead in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies standings.
Przygonski, who had a winning margin of 40min 13sec, said:"We are so happy. It was a really tough race from the beginning with the navigation and the terrain. We had no big problems during any of the five stages. Sad for Nasser, but this is motorsport. This can happen always.
"We did not know until the end that we had won. We were running in front but there was a lot of dust. We knew he was in our dust, but the guys at the finish told us that we were winning. We were so happy. For the World Cup classification it is a superb result. There were some tears at the finish. To overcome the navigation and take the win here in Qatar is very special."
An emotional Colsoul added:"This is a very special and emotional win for me for two reasons. I lost a family member on this rally three years ago and to win the most difficult rally in the world calendar in terms of navigation is very special. I am a humble farmer's boy from Belgium and to come here and beat the best in the world on such a hard rally and to etch your name in the history of the event is a great feeling."
A disappointed Attiyah said:"This is rally. This is a new car. Since the last two days, we have had a small issue with the engine but we tried to keep going. Suddenly, today, we had an oil pressure alarm and we stopped immediately. We finished at 210km I think. When we see the alarm it was over. We had no plans for Silk Way before but, maybe now, we have a chance to do this big race in the summer!"
G-Energy Team MINI One driver Vladimir Vasilyev shadowed Przygonski to the finish to snatch second overall and 42 valuable championship points, while Saudi Arabia's Yasir Seaidan French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter gave Overdrive Racing the final place on the podium in their Toyota Hilux.
Poland's Aron Domzala reached the flying finish in fourth position in the second of the Toyotas and Czech driver Martin Prokop continued his push for a first ever FIA World Cup title with crucial points for fifth place. He now holds second in the series behind Przygonski in his Ford F-150 Evo.
Dutchman Erik van Loon survived two gentle rolls to finish the last stage with the sith quickest time, but the damage had already been done and he was ninth in the third Toyota.
Qatar's Adel Abdulla's began the final stage with a T2 lead of 3hrs 53min 03sec in his QMMF and Ooredoo-backed Nissan Patrol Y62. Saudi Arabian rival Ahmed al Shegawi won the day's stage after Adel stopped with a reported broken rear axle after 265km and battled in vain to repair the damage. He managed to get going again before the stage finish control closed but an eventual retirement was a bitter blow for the Qatari and handed his Saudi rival the maximum 50 championship points.
Frenchman Claude Fournier hung on to secure maximum points to T3 to snatch the oveall lead in the FIA T3 Championship from Spanish rival Jos` Luis Pena Campo. Santiago Navarro was third.
Young Polish rider Maciej Giemza vindicated his decision to enter the event on his Orlen Team KTM 450 with a solid finish and a maximum haul of FIM points to snatch the lead in the FIM Cross-Country Rally World Championship after two rounds.
Russian quad rider Alexsandr Maksimov secured victory over Dutch rival Kees Koolen in the quad category by the margin of 40min 50sec after both rode cautiously over the final kilometres.
"We are very proud of the organisation this year," said Abdulrahman al Mannai, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF)."We made a lot of changes, including the set-up for the rally offices, the media and the super stage. We expected a tough rally as always. , because of the challenges of the navigation. Many people come here who have been to Dakar and many rallies and think it may be easy. But this rally is very tough as we have seen with the results changing.
"Unfortunately, our hero Nasser was leading all the way until he had an engine problem and he had to pull out. We are also proud of Adel's performance this week in T2.
"It has been a tough year for all of us in Qatar because of the political situation. But we worked hard to make sure that this did not impact the sport. That was our goal from the beginning. We don't think about politics and mix it with sport. We faced a lot of challenges because of the blockade on our country. Nevertheless, we did not give up and we were determined to have a rally better than in the past. We also received feedback in a positive way from the FIA. We are happy with the way the rally has gone."
Oman's Abdullah al Zubair won the second round of the Manateq Qatar Baja that finished at PC3. The Jeep Wrangler driver carded a time of 1hrs 45min 33sec.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS5 (unofficial @ 16.00hrs): Cars
1. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 14hrs 14min 46sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 14hrs 54min 59sec
3. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16hrs 30min 02sec
4. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16hrs 48min 36sec
5. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabiška (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 16hrs 50min 51sec
6. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 (T3) 22hrs 40min 34sec
7. Ahmed Shegawi (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Nissan Patrol Y61 (T2) 25hrs 22min 18sec
8. Jose Luis Pena Campo (ESP)/Rafael Tornabell (ESP) Polaris RZR 1000 (T3) 25hrs 26min 42sec
9. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 114hrs 05min 03sec
10. Santiago Navarro (ESP)/Pedro Lopez (ESP) Yamaha XYZ 1000R (T3) 213hrs 45min 18sec.
1. Maciej Giemza (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 21hrs 50min 07sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YFM 700R 26hrs 17min 16sec
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) Barren Racer BR 1690 26hrs 48min 06sec.
Manateq Qatar Baja – final positions (unofficial):
1. Abdullah al Zubair (OMN)/Faisal Al-Railsi (OMN) Jeep Wrangler 1hr 45min 33sec
2. Ahmed Shegawi (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Nissan Patrol Y61 (T2) 1hr 51min 16sec
3. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Nasser al Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Patrol Y62 (T2) 1hr 55min 26sec
4. Khaled al Feraihi (SAU)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) Nissan Patrol 2hr 15min 13sec
5. Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (QAT)/Feres Allouh (QAT) Nissan Patrol 2hrs 27min 24sec
6. Jamal Fakhroo (QAT)/Saeed Shawared (QAT) Nissan Patrol 2hrs 56min 12sec
7. Rashid Al-Mohannadi (QAT)/Ahmed al Fares (KWT) Nissan Patrol 3hrs 00min 12sec
8. Abdullah al Rabban (QAT)/Dionislos Nikitopulos (QAT) Baja 3hrs 20min 54sec
9. Mohammed al Attiyah (QAT)/Zaenal Abidain (QAT) Can-Am Maverick X3 5hrs 28min 40sec.
2018 Qatar Cross-Country Rally – positions on SS5:
1. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 3hrs 33min 44sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI One 3hrs 42min 03sec
3. Martin Prokop (CZE)/David Pabiska (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 3hrs 55min 45sec
4. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hrs 20min 13sec
5. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hrs 24min 59sec
6. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Toyota Hilux 4hrs 28min 01sec.
FIA World Cup Standings
1. Jakub Przygonski (POL) 144pts;
2. Martin Prokop (CZE) 113pts;
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) 111pts;
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU) 58pts;
5. Nasser Saleh al Attiyah (QAT) 30pts, etc.