KTM’s Sam Sunderland wins bike stage as Branch regains the lead
Pavel Lebedev and Eugenio Amos claim T3 and T4 stage wins
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi continued to hunt down Frenchman Mathieu Serradori on the second half of Rally Kazakhstan’s Marathon stage between Kenderly and Senek on Friday.
The former winner of the event guided his Toyota Hilux to a second successive stage win to reduce Serradori’s overall advantage to 22 seconds heading into the final two days of the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Al-Rajhi was the class of the field on a stage where Argentina’s Sebastien Halpern was third quickest in a MINI John Cooper Works Buggy and Denis Krotov was fourth in another X-raid machine. The Russian duly displaced Ronan Chabot and moved up to fifth overall behind Sweden’s Matthias Ekström. Juan Cruz Yacopini lost his place in the top 10 after rolling his Overdrive Toyota in the stage.
“We’ve completed the two Marathon days and it was a very challenging part of the race,” said Al-Rajhi’s co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz. “We won the stage yesterday, but had some trouble inside the car with alarms for fuel pressure. There was nothing we could do against it. We tried to do a small service at the Marathon, change the wheels and check all the stuff.
“Today, the car was running nicely, no real problems. We had to open today. Navigation was tricky in places and we are very happy to win the stage and get very close to the leader in the overall classification. Yazeed pushed hard and then had a smooth pace towards the end.”
Despite finishing the stage and the long liaison with no rear tyre, Ross Branch regained the advantage in the motorcycle category on a stage where Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland set the fastest time of 3hr 38min 13sec to beat France’s Adrien van Beveren by 2min 08sec and climb to fourth place. The third quickest time enabled Branch to guide his Yamaha to an overall advantage of 6min 27sec over Van Beveren, after overnight leader Matthias Walkner suffered tyre mousse issues and slipped to third.
Branch said: “What a day! The tyre went a while back, 50km before the finish of the racing stage, so I had to make the best of a bad situation. I guess you close your eyes and hope for the best! I am just happy to be here after a crazy couple of hours….”
Walkner added: “15km before the end (tyre woes), but when I passed Skyler (Howes), after km220, I already knew I would have to slow down a bit or I would not arrive. Finally, I tried to manage it. It feels super scary because you never know what is going to happen. The goal was to arrive to the finish.”
After winning stage two, Skyler Howes also suffered serious tyre mousse issues and incurred a fistful of time penalties that pushed him to the rear of the two-wheel field behind the Hero Motorsports Team Rally trio of Franco Caimi, Sebastien Bühler and Joaquim Rodrigues, who all suffered tyre and rim issues on day two.
As Rodrigues explained: “The team made a bad choice with the tyre. This is part of racing. We were able to fix the problem but we were penalized, of course, but we arrived at the finish line. Now we got six hours penalized, so it is kind of pointless to be pushing hard. We are just trying to make it to the finish now.”
Argentine Manuel Andujar inherited a massive lead of 27min 45sec in the quad category after serious problems for his closest rival Alexsandr Maksimov. An electric cable became entangled around the Russia’s wheel and tyre in the stage and, as a result, the Yamaha rider also ceded second position to the Polish former World Champion Rafal Sonik.
Pavel Lebedev deprived Guillaume de Mevius of a second successive stage win in the FIA T3 section. The Can-Am Maverick driver beat the Belgian by 5min 05sec on the day to reduce Cristina Gutierrez’s overall advantage to 3min 34sec. Spain’s Fernando Alvarez retained third in the standings.
Eugenio Amos carded the stage win in the FIA T4 class for the second day in his South Racing Can-Am, but Monster Energy rival Austin Jones had already built up a comfortable cushion on the opening day and now heads the category by 38 minutes.
The penultimate leg of this year’s event includes a competitive section of 308.80 kilometres and is centred around the deserts to the north-east of Aktau and across the Mangystau region’s remote Mangyshlak Peninsula. The action starts 103.39km north of the service park and included a refuelling zone for the bikes at PC2, after 176.11km.
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Positions after leg 3 (unofficial @ 15.35hrs):
1. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Century CR6 Buggy - 9hr 24min 16sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive - 9hr 24min 38sec
3. Lucio Alvarez (ARG)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive - 9hr 40min 23sec
4. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy - 9hr 52min 07sec
5. Denis Krotov (RUS)/ Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally - 9hr 57min 33sec
6. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive - 10hr 25min 16sec
1. Ross Branch (BWA) Yamaha WRF 450 - 9hr 45min 46sec
2. Adrien van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha WRF 450 - 9hr 52min 13sec
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally - 9hr 53min 08sec
4. Sam Sunderland (ARE) KTM 450 Rally - 9hr 54min 01sec
5. Andrew Short (USA) Yamaha WRF 450 -10hr 00min 25sec
6. Luciano Benavides (ARG) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica - 10hr 17min 24sec
1. Manuel Andujar (ARG) Yamaha Raptor 700 - 12hr 48min 01sec
2. Rafal Sonik (POL) Yamaha Raptor 700 - 13hr 15min 46sec
Source official press release