CC Defending Dakar champions Al-Attiyah and Coma increase leads in Sealine Rally

Sealine Cross-Country Rally, Qatar – April 18-24, 2015
2015 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, round 3
2015 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, round 2

For immediate release
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015


· Nasser Al-Attiyah moves further clear of his troubled rivals after three days
· Clever tactics assist Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves to take a first stage win
· Poland’s Sonik snatches quad lead after Abu Issa’s navigational mistake
· X-raid’s Erik van Loon and Harry Hunt crash at same 153.27km point of stage

SEALINE (Qatar): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Spain’s Marc Coma increased their leads in the car and motorcycle categories of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally, after the third 392.52km selective loop section through the Qatar desert on Wednesday.

Marc Coma lost the virtual overall lead to Joan Barreda Bort during the day’s stage and then fought back to set the third quickest time and extend his overall advantage over new second-placed Jordi Viladoms to 10min 12sec. It was another impressive performance by the five-time Dakar winner and means that he can now manage his race strategy over the next two days.

Coma said: “It was a difficult day again. We start in the dunes, but the last part was like a different stage, rocky, a lot of pistes and (we have to) follow the cap. I had a good rhythm all day. The feeling was good. I know Joan (Barreda Bort) was pushing, but to push and not to make a mistake is a fine balance.”

Portugal’s Paolo Gonçalves changed his tactics on Tuesday to upset the running order and the decision worked well for the Team HRC rider. He won the stage by a margin of 2min 04sec from Pablo Quintanilla and climbed to fourth overall.

“With these new rules we have to use them as best as possible. After yesterday’s result I knew I had a little advantage. I really do well and I catch them all and make a lot of time. Now I can choose my starting position. I will try again and see what happens at the end,” said Gonçalves.

Stage opener Barreda Bort attacked from the start, but time loss before the fourth passage control was costly for the Spaniard. “I have a navigation mistake. To go all day alone is so difficult. I was opening and pushing real hard. I try. I know it is not easy with this situation. I try to change,” he said.

Al-Attiyah extended his overall lead in the car category to 22min 19sec with a third successive stage win. “We did a good job today. I am quite happy. We had to open the road and keep a good speed. We were a little cautious in places just to find the right way. We pushed a little in the dunes to make a gap and then it was a case of not getting a puncture.”

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi blotted his copybook early in the stage and lost over five minutes, but still reached the finish in third place and maintained second overall.

“After about 14km we stop in some easy place, stuck, and we were passed by (Reinaldo) Varela and (Vladimir) Vasilyev,” admitted Al-Rajhi. “Then we pass them again and I was scared then not to make a mistake or get a puncture. But I am quite happy with this position. The points are the important thing for second place.”

Dutchman Erik van Loon and Briton Harry Hunt lost their fourth and ninth places in the overall standings after crashing 153.27km into the day’s stage on Qatar’s western shoreline.

Poland’s Rafal Sonik has been battling for the odd second with Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa for over 12 hours of racing in the quad category and the pair were separated by just two seconds in the overall standings at one control point on today’s stage. Abu Issa led the Dakar champion for much of the day, but a navigational mistake cost him dearly and this has handed the Pole a lead of 2min 01sec going into the final two days.

“Not a good stage, sighed Abu Issa. “I got lost at km240 trying to get a lead on Sonik. I was with him the whole time. Then I came back at waypoint 250 and I think I got some time back.”

Sonik remains focused: “It was tough. I did a couple of mistakes but they were not big, fortunately. The biggest one was when I was following Mohammed. He’s extremely fast, but making navigation mistakes. Sometimes he does not match the speed with the navigation. We keep an eye on each other and he was pushing and I had to keep an eye on the right path. Now I hope I gained some good time.”

SS3 – as it happened

Twenty-seven cars, 22 bikes and four quads were given start times for the third 392.52km selective section. There was no wind but temperatures were forecast to climb into the high thirties and it was 25°C when the first of the bikes left the bivouac for the short 3.58km road section to the start.

Around 30km of sand dunes featured from the start on this occasion, before the stage crossed Qatar from east to west along the northern extremities of the Inland Sea, before heading to the west of Qatar and then moving up the west coast. The stage then wound its way through the heart of the south of the country to a finish near Sealine.

The rules meant that Barreda Bort and Sunderland were forced to open the road and the Spaniard was in impressive form to reach PC1 1min 49sec in front of Sunderland and 2min 28sec ahead of Coma. It meant the Honda rider had claimed the virtual stage lead from Coma by 25 seconds. Abu Issa managed to hunt down Sonik and reached PC1 54 seconds in front of the Pole to reduce the Dakar champion’s virtual quad lead to just four seconds.

Gonçalves continued to lead the motorcycle group through PC2, although Coma was in a competitive pace and Barreda Bort’s virtual lead was pegged back to just two seconds. Portugal’s Joao Rolo Simoes retired from the over-450 motorcycle class and recurring issues from Tuesday’s arm injury forced Jeremias Esquerra to call it a day on his factory Honda.

Al-Attiyah remained in a class of his own in the car category and was 5min 59sec faster than Al-Rajhi through PC1. Roma was the Qatari’s closest rival after Vasilyev lost a little time in the sand dunes.

Erik van Loon and Harry Hunt both crashed heavily after 153.27km. The two Minis were damaged, none of the four team members were injured, but the Dutchman and the Briton lost fourth and ninth overall as a result.

Coma had regained the virtual motorcycle rally lead by PC3 and went on to finish the stage in third position, with the stage win falling to Gonçalves. The result also meant that Gonçalves’s strategy of slowing on the previous day had worked perfectly and the Portuguese moved up from eighth to fourth in the general classification. Barreda Bort lost substantial time with a navigational mistake before PC4 and slipped to sixth overall.

The controversial new motorcycle ruling will take effect again on Thursday, with the stage winner able to choose a favourable starting position rather than having to open the road. “We normally all finish the stage in a group and the guy at the back makes up the time. That’s how it works,” said seventh-placed Sam Sunderland.

Al-Attiyah cruised to the stage finish to secure a third successive special win and duly extended his lead in the car category to 22min 19sec over Al-Rajhi. Vasilyev set the second fastest time in his Mini after Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela sustained three flat tyres and lost his chance of finishing the stage as runner-up.

“The stage was very tough, with a lot of stones and rocks after the dunes,” said Varela’s co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin. “All day we had flat tyres. Three punctures altogether and one just five kilometres from the end of the stage.”

This year’s Sealine Cross-Country Rally is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) with support from GAC and the Salam International Group.

Tomorrow (Thursday), the penultimate 406.78km stage of the Sealine event is the longest of the entire rally. It starts 940 metres from the bivouac and finishes 4.32km away and uses sections of other stages and different combinations of tracks, sand flats and dunes.

2015 Sealine Cross-Country Rally – positions on SS3 (unofficial @ 14.00hrs):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 3hr 59min 49sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 08min 11sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottchalk (DEU) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 09min 05sec
4. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 12min 50sec
5. Joan Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 13min 35sec
6. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 18min 07sec

1. Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) Honda CRF 450 Rally 4hr 29min 46sec
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 31min 50sec
3. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 33min 45sec
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 35min 57sec
5. Jordi Viladoms (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 37min 48sec
6. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 41min 47sec
7. Joan Barreda Bort (ESP) Honda CRF 450 Rally 4hr 43min 39sec

11. Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 700 5hr 27min 38sec
12. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) Honda TRX 680 5hr 28min 41sec

2015 Sealine Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS3 (unofficial @ 13.50hrs):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 9hr 36min 04sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottchalk (DEU) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 9hr 58min 23sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 10hr 02min 47sec
4. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 10hr 24min 28sec
5. Joan Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Mini All4 Racing 10hr 24min 42sec
6. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 10hr 37min 49sec
7. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) H3 Evo 7 10hr 38min 42sec
8. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Arslan Sakhimov (KAZ) Hummer H3 Evo 11hr 29min 07sec
9. Adam Malysz (POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Mini All4 Racing 11hr 29min 22sec

1. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Replica 10hr 54min 02sec
2. Jordi Viladoms (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Replica 11hr 04min 14sec
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) KTM 450 Rally Replica 11hr 04min 15sec
4. Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) Honda CRF 450 Rally 11hr 04min 35sec
5. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally Replica 11hr 05min 10sec
6. Joan Barreda Bort (ESP) Honda CRF 450 Rally 11hr 05min 59sec
7. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 11hr 07min 00sec
8. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 12hr 14min 32sec
9. Armand Monleón (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Replica 12hr 40min 38sec

10. Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 700 12hr 54min 06sec
11. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) Honda TRX 680 12hr 56min 07sec

Follow the rally live:

http://qmmf.cronobandeira.com/m - for mobile phones

Day 4 – Thursday

1. SS4 – 127.86 km (1st bike 08.00hrs/1st car 09.15hrs) approx.
Doha/Salwa Rd
Leave Salwa Rd at exit 42 turning right.
Follow the route for 11 km
For 400 metres, cars and bikes follow an old tarmac track running parallel to the main road that they cross after a passage control.

2. SS4 – 255.15 km (1st bike 09.20hrs/1st car 10.35hrs) approx.
Continue on the same road for 10km.
After a passage control, the rally cars and bikes cross the asphalt road and pass a bridge and 200 metres further they leave the main track on an interesting crest.


Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2015 Sealine Cross-Country Rally, Qatar Mobile: + 974 55292739, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases). Facebook group: 2011-2012 MERC. Twitter: @LordPerkins






Date issued: 22/04/2015

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