Qatar Baja : Final report
atar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec polished off the opposition in clinical style on the 115.54 kms third leg of the NBK Group Qatar Baja to clinch victory and complete their final competitive Dakar Rally preparations
in style, today (Saturday).
Spaniard Paul Soler and Qatar's Khalid Al-Saed were victorious in the motorcycle and quad categories on this final round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, held under the patronage of HH Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar.
Al-Attiyah is the man in form and is now unbeaten in 11 successive events in the Middle East since last October, including nine rounds of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and two successive Qatar Bajas. He will be bidding to wrap up a 12th success in the UAE next weekend, when he reverts to a Subaru Impreza WRX STi for the Dubai International Rally.
"This event was a great opportunity for me to test the suspension on the BMW before the Dakar Rally," said Al-Attiyah. "The car was fantastic. My team have made real progress with this car. I am so happy to win again here in Qatar and keep up my winning streak. I feel confident now. This was an enjoyable race for me. We had a puncture this morning near the second PC and that was our only real problem. We ran alongside the Buggy for a short time and then I decided to pull away in the dunes."
The Russian Buggy driver Sergey Shmakov had dropped as low as eighth position during the second stage and climbed into second overall prior to the final stage in the only two-wheel drive car on the entry list, when time penalties were imposed on other competitors by Baja officials. He maintained an impressive pace through the final stage to shadow Al-Attiyah to the finish, albeit 2h 34m 37s behind the Qatari in the overall classification.
Portugal's Rui Sousa was able to restart with massive time penalties in eighth position on Saturday morning, but with the FIA Baja title in the bag Spaniard Marc Blazquez maintained a solid pace over the closing stage to finish third overall.
Qatar's Jaralla Al-Marri had been classified second after leg two, but incurred 1h 05m time penalties at the Sealine bivouac for missing a passage control and slipped to fourth place, a position he held to the finish at the QMMF in Doha, despite losing valuable time in the sand dunes near the stage finish. His closest challenger was the Qatari Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani in a Nissan Patrol GR.
Spaniard Pau Soler, who was third overall in last year's Qatar Baja, began the final leg with a 20m 22s advantage over the Austrian Juen Beat, with Fabio Benetti and Claudio Mana within earshot of the podium in the motorcycle category. The UAE's Khalid Khamis Ozair began the day in sixth position when time penalties were recalculated on Friday evening and he was handed 38 minutes in penalties and slipped down from fourth place.
Soler led the survivors into the final desert stage, but noticeably eased his pace to fall into the chasing pack, as Khamis Ozair and Jordi Martin Prim pushed hard for a podium place. Khamis Ozair was in a class of his own on the day's stage to take the fastest time, but the top six held station in the overall standings with Soler taking a maiden Qatar Baja title by a winning margin of 19m 22s. Beat and Benetti completed the podium places and Mana, Martin Prim and stage winner Khalid Ozair rounded off the top six.
"I finished third on this race last year, but knew I had a chance to win this time," said Soler. "It was unfortunate that Oscar (Polli) could not start and Tim (Trenker) had a fall on Friday, but it was still a tough race for me and I was pushed all the way by Juen and Khalid over the last two days."
UAE's Mohammed Al-Shamsi had been given the provisional lead in the quad category on Friday evening, but when the results were recalculated Khaled Al-Saed was adjudged to be leading the category. The Qatari headed into the final stage with a 33-minute advantage over his UAE rival, with Italy's Angelo Montico and Qatar's Abdulrahman Al-Hajri in third and fourth and Qatar's Khalifa Safar in fifth.
Al-Saed pipped Al-Shamsi by 13 seconds through the closing section to seal a superb win for the host nation and Qatar's Adeh Hussein set an excellent time on his first quad event to displace Khalifa Safar and take fifth overall behind third-placed Al-Hajri and Montico, who lost time on the final stage with mechanical problems and slipped behind his Qatari rival.
"I would like to congratulate everyone who reached the finish of the Baja this year," said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation. "It was fantastic to see so many overseas competitors here for the event and I hope we put on a challenging event for them across some of the most remote and scenic terrain in Qatar.
"The performances by the Qatari teams, not only by Nasser, also proves that our Federation is developing promising and talented drivers and riders in several motorsporting categories. We have four local quad riders in the top six and will now try and push them to compete on other events outside Qatar."
Qatar Baja : Final Result (unofficial)
1 Al-Attiyah-Guehennec BMW X5 4h35'02
2 Shmakov-Miskin Buggy 7h09'39
3 Blazquez-Salvador Nissan Pathfinder 7h27'03
4 Al-Marri-Al-Marri Land Rover 8h40'48
5 Bin Eid Al-Thani-Sarayan Nissan Patrol 9h23'04
1 Pau Soler KTM 6h28'28
2 Juen Beat KTM 6h47'50
3 Fabio Benetti KTM 7h24'45
4 Claudio Mana KTM 7h34'30
5 Jordi Martin Prim Yamaha 7h35'41
6 Khalid Khamis Ozair Honda 8h03'27
1 Khaled Al-Saed Yamaha Raptor 8h03'28
2 Mohammed Al-Shamsi Honda RTRX 450 8h36'38
3 Abdulrahman Al-Hajri Yamaha Raptor 9h23'22
4 Angelo Montico Honda TRX 450 9h24'22
5 Adel Hussein Yamaha Raptor 10h25'27
6 Khalifa Safar Yamaha Raptor 10h26'09
Press Release NBK Group Qatar Baja