CC Qatar's Al-Attiyah to lead international field into start of inaugural Rally Kazakhstan on Sunday



2017 Rally Kazakhstan

For immediate release
Saturday, May 20th, 2017


· Rally Kazakhstan gets underway with opening Aktau-Aktau stage on Sunday morning

AKTAU CITY (KAZAKHSTAN): The Republic of Kazakhstan enters the official world of international FIA motor sport for the first time this week. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will create another little piece of history of his own by leading 21 rivals into the start of Rally Kazakhstan tomorrow (Sunday).

The new fifth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies starts and finishes on the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea at the isolated city of Aktau in the far southwest of the country. Teams will tackle six selective sections devised by co-ordinator Sergey Talantsev in a route of over 2,500km through the vast desert wastelands that surround Aktau and the coastal region.

Al-Attiyah arrives in Central Asia trailing FIA World Cup leader Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi by 15 points, but his Abu Dhabi rival has opted to compete at the WRC event in Portugal this weekend. That decision means that the Doha-based two-time Dakar winner has a clear opportunity to push for the win and snatch the outright lead in this year’s FIA World Cup for the first time.

“I came to Kazakhstan in 2009 for the Silk Way Rally and we passed through Zhanaozen nearby, but this is my first time in Aktau,” said Al-Attiyah, who travelled to the event from a press reception in Moscow after a week’s shooting training at a camp in Baku after the Jordan Rally. “I like to keep busy,” joked the Qatari, who was able to test his Toyota Hilux for the first time on a short gravel section near Aktau on Friday afternoon.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi will have other ideas. The Riyadh driver has shown an impressive turn of speed in his X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Rally and he and German navigator Timo Gottschalk will be eager to make up lost ground in the championship after technical issues cost them a possible podium finish in Qatar. Al-Rajhi has the pace to match Al-Attiyah and a fascinating duel is in prospect over the next six days.

A couple of fastest times brought Poland’s Jakub Przygonski into the spotlight in Qatar last month and the former enduro rider proved that his decision to switch to rallying on four wheels with a second X-raid Mini was a wise one. He holds seventh in the points’ standings, while Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa holds third position and drives the third Mini in Kazakhstan. Abu Issa made the switch from racing on a quad and has adapted quickly to rallying in a car.

Baja Russia winner Aron Domzala led the FIA World Cup after the first two rounds, but the Pole suffered in the intense heat of the deserts of the UAE at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and slipped to sixth in the rankings after Qatar. Maciej Marton replaces Szymon Gospodarczyk in the co-driver’s seat on this occasion.

Czech Miroslav Zapletal is one of the most experienced drivers in the championship. He has been developing his Hummer H3 during the course of the series and will be aiming for a podium finish to boost his season after a disappointing start. Kazakh Yuriy Sazonov drives a second Hummer H3 and heads the local challenge with fellow Kazakh co-driver Vitalyi Yevtyekhov.

Also looking at potential top five finishers are the Russian driver Viktor Khoroshavtsev in his Aspec Motorsport-run BMW 3 CC and Lithuania’s Antanas Juknevicius at the wheel of a Toyota Hilux. The remainder of the T1 category is filled by Kazakh drivers; namely Yerden Shagirov, Zhanat Zhamimbetov, Dmitry Pitulov, Daniyar Alibayev and Andrey Drozd.

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Saeidan and Qatar’s Adel Abdulla resume their duel for victory in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles, although Rally Kazakhstan President Marat Abykayev and fellow countrymen Kirill Chernenkov and Pavel Loginov will be hoping to upset the series regulars and claim podium finishes on their home event.

The French duo of Patrice Garrouste and Claude Fournier will decide the outcome of the T3 battle in their Polaris RZR 1000s. Fournier won the category in Qatar last month and holds a joint lead in the championship with the UAE’s Ahmed Al-Maqoodi, the winner of T3 in Abu Dhabi. There is also a National event running behind the main FIA rally.

The opening Aktau-Aktau stage takes place tomorrow (Sunday) and will run for 268.23km in a northerly loop of the coastal region between the ex-Soviet military base of Fort Shevchenko and Aktau in a day’s route of 337.63km. The experienced French rallying duo of Thierry Magnaldi and Gilles Picard have been traversing each day’s route in the last few days to check on possible weather damage and make any necessary last-minute modifications to the road book.

Stage two heads east out of Aktau City and winds its way in a loop via the town of Ushtagan and south of the oil and gas hub of Zhanaozen to finish just north of the Kenderly Sea Resort on Monday (May 22). The seaside resort location will then host the bivouac for three nights.

The two selective sections on May 23 and 24 loop around the deserts further east and to the north of Kenderly and closer to the remote town of Senek. They will run for 421km and 276.20km, respectively.

The penultimate stage takes teams back to Aktau City via a competitive section of 370.90km in a day’s route of 499.60km. The action begins to the north of Kenderly and makes its way in an anti-clockwise direction to a finish close to the small town of Zhetybay. A shorter sixth and final loop stage of 147.94km, north of Aktau City, brings the action to a conclusion on May 26.

2017 Rally Kazakhstan - leading starters (unofficial)
201. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
202. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Mini John Cooper Works Rally
203. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
204. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SLO) Hummer H3 Evo VII
206. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Mini All4 Racing
207. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing
208. Viktor Khoroshavtsev (RUS)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) BMW X3 CC
209. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Vitalyi Yevtyekhov (KAZ) Hummer H3 Evo VIII
210. Antanas Juknevicius (LTU)/Darius Vaiciulis (LTU) Toyota Hilux
211. Zhanat Zhalimbetov (KAZ)/Vladimir Demyanenko (RUS) Toyota Hilux

FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – standings after round 4:
1. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE) 105pts
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 90pts
3. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) 68pts
4. Martin Prokop (CZE) 54pts
5. Yasir Saeidan (SAU) 53pts
6. Aron Domzala (POL) 44pts
7. Jakub Przygonski (POL) 42pts
8. Leeroy Poulter (ZAF) 32pts
9. Yayha Al-Helai (ARE) 28pts
10. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU) 24pts, etc

Follow the rally live:

Aktau City – a brief description
Known as Shevchenko from 1964 to 1991 - after the exiled Ukrainian poet of the same name - Aktau (meaning ‘white mountain’ in Kazakh) was created as a uranium mining town in 1961. It is now a seaport and major hub for the oil and gas industry on the Caspian Sea and is the capital of the Mangystau region of southwest Kazakhstan. It has a unique block address system, with almost all streets inside the city having names and addresses replaced by a series of three numbers (district/building/apartment). Tourism is popular with mainly Kazakh visitors to the Caspian beaches in the summer months.

For further media information: Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, international media officer, 2017 Rally Kazakhstan, Marriott Renaissance Aktau Hotel, Media Centre, UK mobile: +44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@googlemail.com and rallykazakhstan@gmail.com, Twitter: @LordPerkins.





Date issued: 20/05/2017

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