Friday, 22 June 2018 01:00 GMT

Qatar- Przygonski and Sunderland secure first desert stage

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Poland's Jakub Przygonski, Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland and Peru's Alexis Hernandez won the second competitive stage of the Qatar Cross-Country Rally and hold the outright leads in the car, motorcycle and quad categories.

The stage of 334.08km ran between Rawdat Rashed and a finish close to the Sealine resort, south of Doha, in a fierce hot desert wind. Navigational issues were a factor for many crews and Abu Dhabi Racing's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi lost vital minutes before the second passage control. Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, on the other hand, suffered power steering and gearbox woes and was lucky to lose so little time.

Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi took full advantage and looked to be heading for the stage win in his new Mini John Cooper Works Rally, but he was pipped at the post by Polish team-mate Jakub Przygonski.

Overdrive Racing's Erik van Loon and Toyota GAZOO's Leeroy Poulter ruined a potential X-raid Mini 1-2-3 with third and fourth places and demoted Qatar's Mohammed Abu Issa (who lost time with a costly puncture) to fifth in the third Mini. Al Attiyah and Al Qassimi hold sixth and seventh places.

After his crash in Abu Dhabi, the last thing Al Attiyah needed was no power steering on his Toyota Hilux. 'I was really worried because I still have a pain. The steering rack has completely stopped. It was really difficult to make 190km without power steering. And then the gearbox lever was broken. Matthieu (Baumel) try to change himself, but it took time and we were stuck in third gear to the finish. But I am surprise to lose so little time.

Sunderland, riding for the Red Bull KTM Factory Team, used his favourable starting position and confidence he has gained from two massive wins already this season to steal the initiative. He caught the riders in front and now holds an outright lead of 9min 32.9sec over Monster Energy Honda Team's Paulo Gonçalves, although Sunderland's starting position for Thursday's stage should enable his rivals to reduce that gap.

Honda's Kevin Benavides holds third, despite fuel pump issues on the road section after the stage, and Pablo Quintanilla of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Team is fourth. Overnight motorcycle leader Antoine Meo dropped around 26 minutes with navigational woes before PC1 on the day's stage and slipped to seventh in the overall standings. Ride to Abu Dhabi's Mohammed Al-Balooshi holds ninth place.

Sunderland said: 'Obviously it's always hard to have the first day in Qatar and to adjust the brain to start to think about a lot of navigation, especially after Abu Dhabi, where it is all open GPS. I pushed all day and managed to pass all the guys. We are here and safe and the bike was awesome. It was heavy for the hands. They are pretty destroyed after all the stones. It was a tough day. We will have to see how we go with the strategy.

Second-placed Goncalves said, 'I start the rally well. It was a really tough stage with difficult navigation and also some dangerous tracks. At the beginning I tried to keep my speed more or less safe but, after the refuelling, I start to go a little faster. I am happy to arrive with the second overall. The bike is okay. We have more than 1000kms still to go, so we don't do any calculations. I take each day as it comes.
Peruvian Alexis Hernandez also misread early route instructions on his quad, but managed to refocus to set the quickest time in the quad category and extend his outright lead to 6min 12.1sec over Poland's Rafal Sonik. Dutchman Kees Koolen is third. Argentina's Lucas Innocente was badly delayed on the opening stage, failed to complete the route on Wednesday and incurred massive time penalties.
Saudi Arabia's Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi won the shorter non-FIM section on his Yamaha quad. On a stage that finished at PC2 for the national riders, Sultan Al Masood was second.
Qatar's Adel Abdulla broke a front suspension arm on his way to the fastest T2 time in the opening stage, but the Nissan Patrol driver was in excellent form on the first desert section and he reached Losail with a lead of 50.6 seconds in the popular support championship for series production cross-country vehicles. Abu Dhabi Racing's Mansour Al Helai holds second and series leader Yasir Saeidan is third.
Local Chevrolet Buggy driver Mohammed Al-Mannai won the day's stage in the Qatar National Baja and leads the event by 7min 09.2sec from Mohammed Al Meer. Saudi's Ahmed Al Shegawi is third.
Today, the third stage of 353.02km starts close to the former bivouac at Sealine and runs south towards the Inland Sea before heading west and up the western coast of Qatar. Refuelling takes place at PC2, in Al Galayel, and the stage finishes at Mekaines on the Salwa Road.


Qatar-  Przygonski and Sunderland secure first desert stage

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