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Schlesser, Coma, Sonik lead Sealine Cross Country Rally

Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, Spaniard Marc Coma and Poland’s Rafal Sonik led their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after a punishing opening 405.12km selective section of the 2013 Sealine Cross Country Rally across the deserts of southern Qatar yesterday.
Pre-rally favorite Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah may have lost his chance of retaining the Sealine car title after grinding to a halt with rear brake caliper issues before the first passage control. The Qatari holds seventh overall and ceded over 65 minutes to stage winner Schlesser, while he and Lucas Cruz Senra made emergency repairs and then faced further delays later in the stage. Al-Attiyah must now mount a fascinating fightback over the remaining three days.
Schlesser, the ‘Desert Fox’, finished 16min 44sec in front of Polish Mini driver Krzysztof Holowczyc, despite the difficult navigation that placed an extra burden on his Russian co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov.
Brazilian Reinaldo Varela lost third place near the stage finish after a front impact damaged his Toyota. This paved the way for the three other Overdrive Racing Toyota Hiluxes of Kazakh Aidyn Rakhimbayev, Venezuelan Nunzio Coffaro and Poland’s Martin Kaczmarski and Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Shegawi (Nissan) to round off the unofficial top six.
Coma managed to snatch the early advantage from Portugal’s Paulo Gonçalves in a tense motorcycle contest. The leading riders were bunched together for long periods, but the Spaniard was able to edge the stage win from Gonçalves by the margin of 2min 04sec. Norway’s Pal-Anders Ullevalseter took third and Poland’s Jakub Przygonski was fourth.
Emirati Obaid Al-Kitbe lost his chance to secure the quad title on the last day in 2012 and his cruel luck struck again. He led for much of the stage before falling behind Poland’s defending champion Rafal Sonik and stopping short of the finish. Sonik, riding a Honda TRX700, will now take a 37min 06sec advantage into Wednesday’s second stage after Al-Kitbe managed to get going again. The UAE’s Atif Al-Zarouni and Qatar’s Adel Hussein Abdullah failed to complete the stage after technical problems.
Competitors tackle the longest section of the entire event today – a 413.19km selective section that starts 5.6km from the bivouac and finishes at the same place as Monday. The stage offers a wide range of tracks and challenges to competitors and accurate navigation will be crucial across the myriad of winding desert trails. Bikes again take the stage start from 05.45hrs and cars follow from 07.00hrs.
Positions after SS1 (unofficial):
Cars — 1. Jean-Louis Schlesser (FRA)/Konstantin Zhiltstov (RUS) Schlesser Original 4hr 20min 23sec 2. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 37min 07sec 3. Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ)/Vladimir Demiyaneko (RUS) Toyota Hilux 5hr 08min 19sec 4. Nunzio Coffaro (VEN)/Daniel Meneses (VEN) Toyota Hilux 5hr 16min 14sec 5. Martin Kaczmarski (POL)/Bartlomiej Boba (POL) Toyota Hilux 5hr 17min 33sec 6. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (KSA)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Nissan 5hr 24min 30sec 7. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Lucas Cruz Senra (ESP) Desert Buggy 5hr 25min 08sec Bikes — 1. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 58min 46sec 2. Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) Speedbrain 450 Rally 5hr 00min 50sec 3. Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (NOR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 5hr 02min 46sec 4. Jakub Przygonski (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 5hr 04min 48sec 5. Francesco Lopez (CHL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 5hr 10min 47sec 6. Juan Carlos Salvatierra (BOL) Honda CRE F 500 X 5hr 30min 01sec 7. Khalid Khamis Ozair (UAE) Honda CRF 450 X 5hr 49min 33sec 8. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 5hr 50min 53sec
Quads— 1. Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 700 5hr 55min 08sec 2. Obaid Al-Kitbe (ARE) Honda TRX 700 6hr 32min 14sec 3. Pablo Copetti (ARG) Yamaha Raptor 700 7hr 22min 13sec 4. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) Yamaha Raptor 700 7hr 40min 34sec 5. Mohammed Al-Shamsi (ARE)Honda TRX 700 7hr 42min 14sec