The second fastest time enabled Poland’s Jakub Przygonski to trim Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah’s overall lead to 6min 07sec heading into the final loop through the deserts north of Aktau City on Friday. Al-Attiyah suffered a minor gearbox issue and lost some time in the sand dunes.
Al-Rajhi and German navigator Timo Gottschalk began the 370.9km competitive section fourth on the road and were quickly into a competitive pace. The Mini John Cooper Works Rally driver shadowed Przygonski and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul to the finish of a stage that retraced the tracks that had been used on leg two, but run in the opposite direction on this occasion. The special looped around Zhanaozen to finish just short of the remote settlement of Zhetybay.
“It was a good stage. There was a lot of dust and we start number four. We push to catch Kuba and Nasser and then we follow until the finish. It’s good to take another stage win.”
“We still have a good lead to take into the last day, but it was not an easy stage and we had a small problem with the gearbox in the second dunes,”
“It was nothing serious and we will be all set for the last day.”
“It was quite good for us and, for the first 200km, we were trying to pass Nasser but there was so much dust that it was impossible,”
“Then, in the dunes, he was stuck and we overtake him and we pushed to the finish. It was hard navigation, but a nice stage.”
Yerden Shagirov had been awarded 6hrs 45min of time penalties for supposedly missing a series of waypoints on day three, but race officials removed these when it came to light that a tracking error had occurred. It meant the Kazakh was reinstated in fifth overall to the detriment of Lithuanian driver Antanas Juknevicius, who slipped back to sixth.
Seventh-placed Yasir Saeidan remains well clear of any of his T2 rivals in a Toyota Land Cruiser. With Russian navigator Alexey Kuzmich reading the road book, Saeidan now has a massive advantage in the category for series production cross-country vehicles.
Dmitry Pitulov and Zhanat Zhalimbetov lost further time in the last series of sand dunes, but there were good stage performances by Kirill Chernenkov, Viktor Khoroshavtsev and AMFK President Marat Abykayev. Adel Abdulla and Pavel Loginov were running a little further behind after ongoing delays.
Thursday – as it happened
Al-Attiyah led his rivals into the start of the penultimate 370.9km competitive section from Kenderly to Aktau, but a freak torrential rainstorm literally inundated rally head quarters at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in Aktau in the early hours of Thursday morning. According to the hotel’s banqueting manager, the last week has witnessed the most rain to fall in the area on record and it forced rally officials to shift their operations to different offices at the 11th hour.
The competitive action started on time, however, and Al-Rajhi signalled his intent from the outset by reaching the end of the opening section, before a short neutralisation zone, 29 seconds quicker than Al-Attiyah.
Mohammed Abu Issa’s miserable rally continued; the Qatari has not been able to enjoy a clean run on any of the five stages. He started the event third in the overall championship standings, but ground to a halt shortly after the neutralised section with technical issues and dropped at least half an hour as a result. He then made the decision to head directly to Zhanaozen and incur another fistful of time penalties for failing to complete the stage.
“Unfortunately for me this rally has been full of mechanical and electrical problems every day,”
“We are learning from our mistakes and it’s good to happen here and not on Dakar. I am thinking positively and I hope I can finish.”
Al-Rajhi held on to claim a third stage win in his Mini John Cooper Works Rally and Przygonski was able to reduce Al-Attiyah overall lead to 6min 07sec with the second fastest time.
The final selective starts 35.45km north of Aktau and includes parts of the opening timed test that were used last Sunday. The stage runs for 147.94km and includes repeat runs over the scenic tracks along the shores of the Caspian Sea. A short liaison of 41.75km then guides the finishing crews back to the podium in Aktau City.