SEALINE: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, Spaniard Joan Barreda and Poland’s Rafal Sonik were the early leaders of their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after the short opening 164.18km selective section of the 2014 Sealine Cross-Country Rally in the Qatar deserts yesterday.
Al Attiyah was the class of the car field in his Mini All4 Racing.
The 2012 winner began the day from fourth on the road and survived having to change a flat tyre after the second passage control to set a winning time of 1hr 34min 57sec.
The Qatari and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel take a lead of 2min 44sec over Mini team-mates Krzysztof Holowczyc and Andreas Schulz into the second stage today.
“It was going well, no problems and then we had a flat tyre and had to stop and change it,” said Al Attiyah.
“It was only a short stage but the navigation was very tricky. Matthieu did a great job.”
Spanish rider Barreda stormed through the field from ninth to seal a stunning opening stage win for Honda.
The CRF 450 rider completed the stage 1min 02sec quicker than defending champion Marc Coma (KTM), with Jordi Viladoms reaching the flying finish in third place.
“It was a good stage for me, very happy,” said Barreda.
“I rode fast from the start and tried to push and then I slowed down a little in the dunes at the end.
“I did not want to make a mistake there. We have a good strategy for this race.”
Coma was upbeat in second position.
“This is just the first day. We came from Abu Dhabi, where the terrain is quite different and there is more navigation here. We will see tomorrow. But I’m happy, it has been a positive first step. The rally is long and it was important to start without making any mistakes. “
Emirati rider Mohammed Al-Balooshi was an impressive fourth.
“At the moment my navigational skills cannot match my pace. I need to practice my navigation. I rode with the master (Coma) for a while. I really enjoyed that. Today was a great experience for me.”
Poland’s Sonik held ninth overall and was the quickest of the three quad riders on his Honda.
Qatar’s Mohamed Abu Issa was a close second and a mere three seconds in front of Adel Hussein, who lost time after problems with his road book scroll.
“After the last tarmac road, the scroll broke on my road book and I kept having to stop and turn it manually,” Qatar’s Adel Hussein said later.
Abu Issa said: “It was a short stage, but very tough. Tomorrow will be cooler at the start, but the last 150km will be boiling and that’s when you get dizzy and need to concentrate. It was harder than I imagined today. I need new knuckles.”
Red Bull KTM factory team rider Sam Sunderland lost his way before the first passage control and dropped over 16 minutes to the leaders trying to regain the correct track.
He finished the day in a disappointing seventh position after a late charge through the stage. THE PENINSULA