HAIL: Poland’s Jakub Przygonski beat Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by 69 seconds to claim the fastest time on the second 314-kilometer selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally on Thursday morning.
But the bonus point that the Qatari collected for setting the second-quickest time, coupled with the 1.5 points he earned for being fastest on Wednesday, pushed him ever closer to the FIA World Cup title in his duel with Toyota team-mate Lucio Alvarez. Al-Attiyah now leads the event by 7 minutes and 11 seconds, with his title rival down in sixth place, 24:28 behind.
Al-Attiyah said: “I am quite happy. It was a good stage and we took good points yesterday and today. This is good (progress) towards the FIA World Cup. We opened all the way and it was not easy. But we lost only one minute. Tomorrow we start behind Kuba (Przygonski).”
Przygonski and German navigator Timo Gottschalk moved to within three seconds of Denis Krotov’s hold on second place, as the two X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Buggy drivers enjoyed another strong day in the An Nafud desert.
Fellow Mini Buggy driver Sebastien Halpern overhauled Vladimir Vasilyev’s BMW X5 to snatch fourth place, but delays in the desert dropped Spaniard Laia Sanz out of the top 10.
The decision was taken on Thursday afternoon to withdraw Yazeed Al-Rajhi’s Toyota from the event. The Saudi driver had lost too much time because of gearbox issues to challenge for the win and so took early retirement.
Martin Prokop continued test-and-development work on the 2022 specification Ford Raptor Cross-Country, while Juan Cruz Yacopini and Ronan Chabot gained more valuable time with the Overdrive Toyota Hilux T1+.
Three T4 Can-Ams now feature in the overall top 10. Poland’s Michal Goczal holds a fine seventh overall — and the lead in the FIA T4 section from his brother Marek and Ukraine’s Ievgen Kovalevych in a third South Racing-built machine. Australia’s Molly Taylor dropped several minutes to her rivals on the day and slipped to fourth in T4, with Dubai-based Briton Thomas Bell in fifth.
Saleh Al-Saif extended his FIA T3 lead to 35:17 with another fastest time. Dania Akeel came home in an unofficial second place, but Mashael Al-Obaidan displaced Germany’s Annett Fischer to snatch second in the category. Ukbekistan’s Anvar Ergashev was forced to retire on Wednesday evening: he felt pain in his arm 500 meters after the start of the first stage and, even though he completed the opening test, it was later discovered that he had a fracture.
Othman Al-Ghfeli was the fastest of the motorcycle entrants on the second stage by 3:22 from Mishal Al-Ghuneim and the Saudi moved into a lead of 13:47 over his rival. Italy’s Mauro Torrini came in third and climbed to fifth in the standings behind Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Ahmed Al-Jaber.
Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi maintained an unofficial advantage in the quad standings with his second stage win. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Hani Al-Noumesi came in second and third respectively, but the result was unofficial pending any penalties imposed by rally officials.
Saeed Al-Mouri was the unofficial winner of the stage in the National category in his Can-Am. The Saudi beat fellow countryman Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri by nine seconds to hold the outright lead. Aliyyah Koloc is classified third.
Japan’s Teruhito Sugawara (Hino) pipped Frenchman Teo Calvet to the stage win in the Truck section, but Calvet and his Czech crew of Josef Kalina and Tomas Sikola continue to lead the category in their Tatra.
On Friday, competitors tackle a third selective section of 249 km that starts 229 km from the bivouac and features passage controls after 77 km, 172 km and 232 km. A short liaison of 47 km returns teams to the bivouac in Hail.