Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Spain’s Marc Coma and the UAE’s Atif Al-Zarouni set the fastest times in their respective car, bike and quad sections on the first 330.51km special stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally through the southern Qatar desert on Wednesday.
Al-Attiyah extended his 8.7-second overnight lead to a staggering 11m 07.6s after heading off into the distance at the wheel of his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux.
The Qatari used his extensive knowledge of the local terrain to perfection to trounce the opposition. He even managed to overtake all the motorcycles and was the first competitor to reach the finish of the stage.
Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez set the second fastest time in another Toyota and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi was third in a Mini All4 Racing, but a one-minute time penalty for Alvarez means that the Saudi holds a provisional second in the overall rankings. Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, Qatar’s Faisal Al-Attiyah and Dubai’s Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei rounded off the top six.
“Today was a very long stage and the first time that much of this terrain has been used,” said Al-Attiyah. “I had no problems at all. But it was difficult to open the road. I am so impressed with the performance of the Toyota. It is an excellent car and this is a great shakedown for me in advance of the next Dakar.”
Stage one – 330.51km
Tomorrow (Thursday), competitors tackle a repeat of the 330.51km loop stage through the southern extremities of Qatar, with the first bike beginning the test at the same time – 06.00hrs. The stage features four passage controls and a refuelling point for the motorcycles at PC2.
Sealine Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1 (330.51km)