DOHA: Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev and Spanish rider Marc Coma head their respective car and motorcycle categories on the entry list for the 2014 Sealine Cross-Country Rally, which was released by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) in Doha yesterday.
The competitive action gets under way from Losail on April 21 and the event finishes at the rally bivouac, near Sealine, on April 25.
The fourth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and the second event in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship calendar has attracted 37 teams in the car category – including nine FIA Priority drivers - and 18 competitors on bikes and quads.
Both lists include all the respective championship protagonists, with the host nation’s former Dakar winner Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah returning to cross-country rallying action with an X-raid Mini All4 Racing for the first time since he finished third in January’s Dakar Rally.
“This event is special to me and I always enjoy competing in Qatar,” said Al Attiyah, who won the Qatar International Baja candidate event in a SAM Mercedes 35CC in 2011 and claimed outright victory in the inaugural Sealine Cross-Country Rally with the Overdrive Toyota team in 2012.
“My result last year was disappointing, but I know the Mini team well and I am confident that I can win the event with this team. It won’t be easy. The race is longer this year and more demanding and many drivers are chasing the championship and will be looking for as many points as they can pick up.”
Al Attiyah faces fierce competition on four wheels, with the high-flying Russian FIA World Cup leader Vladimir Vasilyev lining up in a second Mini and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi returning to the Overdrive Toyota team with whom he won the opening two Baja rounds of the championship in Russia and Italy.
Minis and Toyotas dominate the upper reaches of the car entry list, which also includes the Qatari drivers Mohammed Al Mannai, Sheikh Hamed bin Eid Al Thani, Abdullah Al Rabban, Faisal Al Attiya, Jamal Fakhroo, Khalid Al Mohannadi and Khalid Al-Salam.
All drivers will start the opening selective section at two-minute intervals as per seeding order on the entry list.
The factory Honda and KTM cross-country teams are the highlight of an impressive motorcycle entry. The 2013 event was decided on the final stage and, if the last stage excitement of the recent Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is anything to go by, this year’s Sealine event promises to be equally as enthralling.
Dakar winner and defending Sealine champion Marc Coma, Ruben Faria, Jordi Viladoms and Sam Sunderland front the Red Bull KTM challenge, but Team HRC Rally includes recent Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Paolo Goncalves, Helder Rodrigues and the impressive Spaniard Joan Barreda-Bort.
Mohammed Abu Issa and Adel Hussein will represent Qatar on a pair of Honda and Yamaha quads at the rear of the field, although Poland’s Rafal Sonik tops the quad runners.
Administrative checks and scrutineering will take place at the Losail circuit on April 19 and April 20. In a compact total route of 1,912.95km, 1,739.55km will be competitive.