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Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah cruises into massive lead
Qatar Baja : After Leg 2
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah cruised effortlessly into a massive 2h 03m 28s lead after the second leg of this year's NBK Group Qatar Baja, being held under the patronage of HH Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar. While the
reigning FIA Middle East rally champion completely dominated the car category in his BMW X5, Spaniard Pau Soler and the UAE's Mohammed Al-Shamsi led the bike and quad sections.
But the performance of the day belonged to Nasser and his French co-driver Alain Guehennec. The pair were 30m 54s ahead of their nearest rival Jaralla Al-Marri on the shorter opening selective section and over 90 minutes ahead on the second.

"The car was perfect today," beamed last year's winner. "If I can keep up this pace on the Dakar Rally then we will have a real chance. I decided to really push today. Alain was not sure, but I wanted to have a go flat out. The dunes were not easy, but it was a good test for me. I was shocked to have such a big lead."

Qatari drivers dominated the leaderboard, with Al-Marri pushing his Land Rover into second position, 17 minutes ahead of Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani's Nissan through the opening stage. Mohammed Al-Mannai and Italy's Ivo Conci followed closely behind, but Sergei Shmakov lost one hour in the sand dunes on the opening loop and slipped to eighth in his Buggy, only to climb back to third at the end of the day.

Qatar's Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah crashed his Land Rover out of the race and both Al-Thani and Al-Mannai lost time on the second loop, as Al-Marri and Shmakov pulled away from the rest of the field to set up the exciting prospect of a Qatar one-two on the podium on Saturday.

In the battle to decide the outcome of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas the advantage was firmly with Spain's Marc Blazquez from the start, after Portuguese rival Rui Sousa lost six minutes with electrical problems on the opening stage and was forced to change two rear shock absorbers on his hired Nissan. Sousa finished the second stage a mere 1m 09s behind the Spaniard, as both drivers held sixth and seventh positions, but it went sadly wrong for the Portuguese driver on the longer second loop and Blazquez was able to coast towards the Baja title.

Spaniard Pau Soler set a punishing time through the opening desert stage to take a 20-minute lead over Austrian Juen Beat and third-placed Khalid Khamis Ozair. But Beat was on Soler's pace through the shorter second loop and will start the final stage on Saturday 18m 22s behind his rival. Khamis Ozair slipped behind the Italian Fabio Benetti on the second stage, as Italy's Claudio Mana and Spain's Jordi Martin Trim completed the top six.

Last year's bikes' champion Tim Trenker fell off his KTM on the opening special stage and lost around 30 seconds on Thursday afternoon. "It was quite a big accident," said Tim. "But the main problem was a persistent carburettor problem we needed to fix before the start of the long stage today." He held third for much of the first stage on Friday, but slipped to fourth at the finish and fell out of contention in the afternoon after a crash.

UAE rider Mohammed Al-Shamsi led the quad section from Nasser Abdullah, with nearest rivals Angelo Montico and Rene Grossmann some way behind. UAE quad rider Atif Al-Zarouni, a former winner of the category in the UAE Desert Challenge, was battling on through the pain barrier after crashing two weeks ago in Dubai. "If I had been sensible I would be resting now with my feet up," said Zarouni. "But I wanted to come here and take part in the Baja." The UAE rider stopped shortly after the start this morning. Qatar's Abdulrahman Al-Hajri was just outside the top six.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the final day of this year's Qatar Baja and bike, quad and car competitors will tackle a single shorter selective special, before returning to the QMMF in Doha for the finishing celebrations. The event would not have been possible without the support of NBK Group, Qatar National Bank, NK Portakabin, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Navigation.

Qatar Baja : Positions after leg 2 (unofficial)
1 Al-Attiyah-Guehennec BMW X5 4h22'01
2 Al-Marri-Al-Marri Land Rover 6h25'29
3 Shmakov-Miskin Buggy 6h41'53
4 Blasquez-Salvador Nissan 6h49'50

1 Pau Soler KTM 5h09'08
2 Juen Beat KTM 5h27'30
3 Fabio Benetti KTM 6h06'25
4 Khalid Khamis Ozair Honda 6h12'19
5 Claudio Mana KTM 6h15'54
6 Jordi Martin Prim Yamaha 6h18'04

1 Mohammed Al-Shamsi Honda 7h09'40
2 Nasser Abdullah Yamaha 7h10'44
3 Angelo Montico Honda 7h24'04
4 Rene Grossmann Polaris 7h27'37
5 Suuaid Jassimal Bombardier 7h35'59
6 Federico Zamboni Honda 7h38'44

Press Release NBK Group Qatar Baja

     Volkswagen well prepared for Dakar Rally
     Marc Blasquez plans the waiting game
     Volkswagen welcomes challenging Dakar Rally route
     Four car lineup for Mitsubishi at Dakar
     Al-Attiyah to carry out major test with BMW in Qatar Baja
     Isidre Esteve joins Gauloises-KTM Team
     Marc Coma Cross Country Rally World Champion
     Marc Coma and Repsol, 2005 Raid World Champions
     Balbir Singh to join Ellen Lohr for the Dakar Rally
     A crushing win for Peterhansel and Cottret

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