AL ATTIYAH / BAUMEL 12 MINUTES CLEAR WITH ONE STAGE TO GO IN QATAR

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Dakar 2019 winners Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel extended their lead at the Qatar Cross-Country Rally, Round 1 of the FIA’s World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, by winning Stage 4 of the 6-Stage event.

Stage 5, which was run on the same day, saw the Qatari moderate his pace to finish 5th, setting the Toyota Hilux crew up with the perfect road position for the closing stage.

The pair posted a time of 2:14:55 over the 228 km that made up Stage 4 of the event, pipping a resurgent Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul in the sister Toyota Hilux by 2:23. Yazeed Alrajhi and navigator Dirk von Ztizewitz suffered multiple punctures near the end of Stage 4, and posted the 5th-fastest time – losing 4:43 to Al Attiyah/Baumel in the process.

But then came Stage 5, and a chance for Alrajhi to strike back. The Saudi Toyota Hilux driver was at home in the dunes of the 121 km-long stage, and beat MINI’s Jakub Przygonski/Timo Gottschalk to the chequered flag by 8 seconds.

At the same time, Ten Brinke/Colsoul maintained their good pace to go 4th-fastest; while Al Attiyah/Baumel eased up and settled for 5th place on Stage 5. With the cars starting Stage 6, the final stage of the event, in the order that they finished Stage 5, Al Attiyah/Baumel find themselves in an excellent road position from which to attack the final stage.

“Yes, our road position for Stage 6 is good,”

explained Al Attiyah from the bivouac at Doha.

“But it is more important to us from a navigating point of view than to attack. We just want to control our pace to the finish.”

The 2017 World Cup winners will have the final stage from last year’s Qatar Cross-Country Rally on their minds when they line up for the final 264 km of the race on February 26th – last year they were forced to retire brutally close to the finish.

“But this year, everything feels good,”

concluded Al Attiyah.

“The Hilux hasn’t had even the smallest issue throughout the race, and both Mathieu and I are feeling fit and strong. Anything can happen, but we are confident going into the final stage.”

The 2019 Qatar Cross-Country Rally ends on February 26th, in the city of Doha. This will bring to a close Round 1 of the FIA’s revamped World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, which is made up of only 5 marathon type events. The other races on the calendar are the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (30 March – 4 April); the Turkmen Desert Race (5 -11 May); Rally Kazakhstan (26 May – 1 June); and the Rally of Morocco (4 – 8 October).

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