- Young Pole Konrad Dabrowski increased his motorcycle lead with canny ride
- Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari and Brazil’s Cristiano De Sousa top T3 and T4 standings
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel lost the lead to Polish rivals Krzysztof Holowczyc and Lukasz Kurzeja on the longer first stage of the Qatar International Baja on Friday morning and then battled back to set the fastest time on the next one to lead by 2min 33.8sec at the end of the day.
Ar the wheel of their borrowed Toyota Hilux, the defending champions now head into the final day with a slim cushion over their team-mates, Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov, who hold second place in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, despite two flat tyres.
Al-Attiyah said: “The first stage was not easy because the road book was not really clear but we make two mistakes that cost 10 minutes. On the next two sections we pushed and are quite happy.”
Krotov added: “Today was good. No problems with navigation. My co-driver did a good job. Two punctures cost us time.”
With Holowczyc reportedly stopped in the second stage of the day with cooling issues on his Mini JCW Rally Plus, that opened the door for the Chinese driver Guoyu Zhang and his Spanish co-driver Oriol Mena to climb into third place with their Baic ORC BJ40, despite one flat tyre.
The day’s action featured three competitive sections of 117.29km, 46.05km and 70.53km for the cars and a similar distance for the motorcycles and quads with the FIM entrants tackling the shorter two sections first.
Nasser Al-Kuwari is better known as an esteemed international co-driver but the Qatari has excelled so far this weekend in the driving seat and has carved out a 4min 02.1sec lead over his usual driving partner Meshari Al-Thefiri in the FIA T3 category for lightweight prototype machines after the Kuwaiti suffered navigational issues. Along with French co-driver François Cazalet, the QMMF Rally Team’s Can-Am driver now holds a lofty fourth in the overall standings.
Nasser Al-Kuwari said: “I am very happy with the result today. You have two options. Is the route okay or not and we followed the right route. We both did a great job. I was careful with the rocks and I kept my speed. My co-driver is one of the best and I trust him and we are happy to lead the T3.”
Al-Thefiri and Oriol Vidal are sixth overall and second in the T3 section with their new MCE-5 T3M and seventh-placed Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and his co-driver Alexei Kuzmich hold third in T3 in the second of the QMMF Rally Team Can-Ams.
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari said: “I am very happy with my first day ever in this kind of rally. It was good experience. The first time in my life in cross-country. A lot of things to see in the stage, cars passing you, different terrain, sometimes sandy, sometimes gravel. My co-driver did a fantastic job.”
Al-Thefiri added: “We were lost and we saw three ways and we tested them all and then we catch the right way after six minutes. I push more. My first time here and a new car for me. I see this car last year in Dubai and we decided to drive the T3M this time.”
Brazil’s Cristiano de Sousa Batista and Portuguese co-driver Fausto Moto continue to lead the FIA T4 section in their South Racing Can-Am and hold 10th overall. French rival Jeremie Warnia is second in the class and 11th, while young Pau Navarro is classified in third with his FN Speed Team Can-Am. Italian racer Pietro Cinotto incurred time penalties for breaking the power steering on the Prologue and is out of contention for the podium.
Overdrive Racing’s Juan Cruz Yacopini holds fifth place in his Toyota Hilux and Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi is on course for useful FIA Middle East Baja Cup points. Despite stopping to assist at the scene of an accident involving Khalid Al-Muhannadi and Pedro Santos, the Saudi holds eighth overall. The time lost at the scene of the incident was handed back to the Nissan driver after the stage.
Dabrowski in control in the motorcycles
Konrad Dabrowski extended his lead in the motorcycle category to 18min 57.6sec after another dominant stage win on his KTM. The talented young Polish Junior rider, who is following in his father Marek’s footsteps, won the day’s stage by 14min 43.2sec from Great Britain’s Robert Wallace, who retained second overall.
Dabrowski said: “I started ninth after winning the Prologue and that was a good starting position for today. My plan was to catch the leaders and to gain as much time as possible and I was actually able to do it before the refuel. By then I knew that the result would be very good. After the second half I opened all the way and it was a really nice day.”
Martin Chalmers claimed third on the day and the Aussie holds a similar position in the overall rankings, with Canadian rival Jonathan Finn in fourth and fellow Australian Andrew Houlihan riding strongly to come home in fifth and first in the Veterans category.
Emirati Abdullah Al-Lanjawi and Saudi Arabia’s Mishal Al-Ghunei were classified in sixth and seventh and eighth-placed Mirjam Pol continued to lead the Women’s category. Ireland’s Oran O’Kelly stopped to assist South Africa’s Michael Anderson, who crashed his KTM on the stage.
The experienced Saudi rider Haitham Al-Tuwaijri topped the quads in the unofficial results from the overnight-leader Emirati Abdulaziz Al-Ahli.
Cars tackle one stage of 224.96km that has been split into four sections of 33.73km, 28.51km, 43.23km and 113.20km by three non-competitive transfer zones. The first vehicle is due in stage at 10.40hrs.
Motorcycles tackle the same route with the first rider going live at the earlier time of 08.45hrs.
2023 Qatar International Baja – Positions after stage 3 (unofficial @ 15.40hrs):
FIA - Cars (Top 5 only)
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 2he 23min 33.4sec*
2. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 26min 07.2sec*
3. Guoyu Zhang (CHN)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Baic ORC BJ40 2hr 30min 26.3sec
4. Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 39min 11.3sec+
5. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 40min 10.0sec*
T1 unless stated
*denotes registered for FIA World Cup
+ denotes registered for FIA Middle East Cup
2023 Qatar International Baja - positions after stage 2 (unofficial):
FIM – Bikes (top 5 only)
1. Konrad Dabrowski (POL) KTM 450 Rally 4hr 05min 14.3sec
2. Robert Wallace (GBR) KTM 450 RFR 4hr 24min 11.9sec
3. Martin Chalmers (AUS) Beta 430 RR 4hr 45min 48.3sec
4. Jonathan Finn (CAN) Honda CRF 450 RL 4hr 56min 55.9sec
5. Andrew Houlihan (AUS) Husqvarna FR 4hr 58min 04.4sec
FIM – Quads
1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700 4hr 46min 26.8sec
2. Abdulaziz Al-Ahli (ARE) Yamaha Raptor 700 5hr 01min 56.8sec
3. Mansoor Al-Suwaidi (ARE) Yamaha YFZ 450R 6hr 02min 32.8sec
4. Arnoud Dom (BEL) Suzuki LTR 450 6hr 09min 03.4sec
Source Qatar International Baja / QMMF