2022 Qatar International Baja – Nasser leads; Mixed fortunes for Meeke and Sordo on opening desert section
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Polish junior rider Konrad Dabrowski extended their leads in the car and motorcycle categories after the second section of a gruelling Qatar International Baja on Friday.
Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel started the day from 10th position on the road and quickly began to overtake their rivals to win stage two (122.73km). The latest Toyota GR DKR Hilux never missed a beat and the Qatari was able to shadow Toyota team-mate Yazeed Al-Rajhi to the finish of the second of the FIA’s two stages to extend his outright lead to 3min 52.6sec.
“It was a good run and we didn’t have any problems except for one flat tyre,” said Al-Attiyah. “For the second stage we didn’t really need to push because there were a lot of stones and we wanted to save everything for tomorrow. I am not surprised with the pace of Yazeed. Now we will try and do our best tomorrow.”
Al-Rajhi and co-driver Michael Orr opened the road for much of the second 124.86km stage, after passing Ahmed Al-Kuwari around 15km after the start, and their pace and performance was rewarded with the stage win and a comfortable second place in the rankings. Fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan lost his way on several occasions in the third Toyota and held a distant third overall.
Al-Rajhi said: “It was a good day for us. First stage we were unlucky. We have a puncture after the start, after 10km, and I catch Yasir (Seaidan) and I follow for around 70km with the dust and more dust. We lost together, me and Yasir, in one place because we took a different road and then we see Nasser and we followed him. But we lost some time. On the second stage we push and Michael did a great job. Qatar is very difficult navigation and we did it very well to win the stage. We are not too far away but we need to push a little bit tomorrow.”
Dabrowski began the day with a lead of 1min 57.2sec in the motorcycle race and the Pole rode for much of the FIM’s 247.59km second stage with Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Great Britain’s Maki Rees-Stavros. The trio were close together in the desert up to the refuel and then the leading duo dropped the Briton after he made a navigational error and they continued their duel for supremacy.
Dabrowski began to edge away from his rival and eventually crossed the finish line 1min 26.7sec in front of the Emirati to lead the motorcycle category by 3min 23.9sec.
“I am quite happy and surprised at the same time,” admitted Dabrowski. “At the beginning of the stage I had a crash in the mud. I was surprised by a pile of mud on the ground. It looked the same everywhere. I had a few issues on the way and had to repair. The GPS fell off and my handlebars were bent. I even had to scroll the road book with my hand. Many stories today but, at the end, I managed to pull away from the guys and win again. Stavros wanted to lead and then he made a navigation mistake. I went my own and pulled away from Al-Balooshi and then ended up with the win.”
Second-placed Al-Balooshi said: “Very tough. Very difficult navigation. I caught Konrad at the beginning but I selected the wrong tyre set for Qatar. This was the only option available. When I caught Konrad, I stayed the first half of the stage together. For me, that was good enough to win. But we went behind the car tracks in the second half. There were a lot of tracks, he made a big gap and my tyres were worn out and I had no traction. Congratulations to him. Tomorrow, we will give it our all and see what we can do.”
Both Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti and Jordanian Abdullah Abu Aishah dropped out of contention and Qatar’s over-450cc class leader Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb and Dane Thomas Kongshøj rounded off the top five behind Rees-Stavros. Britain’s Robert Wallace, Qatar’s Sheikh Mohamed Al-Thani and Bahrain’s Salman Farhan hold sixth, seventh and eighth overall.
Andorra-based Ulsterman Kris Meeke sustained two flat tyres but praised his co-driver François Cazalet for guiding him to fourth in the car category and first in the T3 class for lightweight prototype machines.
“Actually enjoyed it,” said Meeke. “We had two punctures on the first stage and had to stop and change and that left us no spare wheels for the second one, so we really had to take it easy. It was tricky but we had to manage it. Top marks to François, my co-driver, he was on the money, clear and precise. It’s really tricky here. We picked the right roads but his instructions were very clear. I was following five or six cars on the second one so the bike tracks were not a distraction. I really enjoyed the day.”
Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and Max Delfino came home in fifth overall and increased their lead in T4, despite two punctures for the brother of the Baja leader. Seventh-placed veteran Sadoon Al-Kuwari is the Qatari’s closest challenger in the T4 section after front suspension failure side-lined Camelia Liparoti’s Yamaha.
Dani Sordo’s desert debut in a Nasser Racing Can-Am was plagued by navigational delays. The WRC driver originally held sixth overall and second in T3 but he had missed three successive masked waypoints (15 minutes each) and a standard waypoint and was awarded 47 minutes in time penalties, pushing the Spaniard down to 14th place and eighth in T3.
“We are back, a long way back, we had a lot of problems,” said a clearly frustrated Sordo. “I just drive and follow. I am sorry but we were lost a lot.”
Ahmed Al-Kuwari opened the road this morning and avoided serious delays to hold sixth overall in his QMMF Team Can-Am, with team-mate Rashid Al-Muhannadi, Emirati Yasmeen Koloc and former FIA T2 World Champion Adel Abdulla rounding off the top 10 in their T3 machines.
Saudi Arabia’s Muneef Al-Shammeri (Nissan) topped the FIA T2 standings in 13th overall, while Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi held a comfortable lead in the FIM quad category. Qatar’s Abdullah Al-Khelaifi was the sole participant in the FIM SSV section.
Saudi Arabia’s Mishaal Al-Ghuneim snatched the stage win and the lead in the FIM National Baja from South Africa’s Jaco Anderson. Emirati rider Mohammed Meerza slipped to third place.
Al-Mashna and Hani Al-Shammeri were again fastest in the FIA National Baja and extended their lead to 11min 04.4sec.
Friday – as it happened
A strong wind greeted riders and drivers to their respective selective section starts, with the FIM category tackling the longer of the two sections (124.86km) to the west of Doha, while the cars crossed the slightly shorter 122.73km special. After a 20-minute neutralisation and refuel, riders headed straight into the second part, but the cars took a different route to their SS3 and started after a regrouping.
While the cars headed up the west coast, the bikes tackled a slightly more southerly stage through the western deserts to the east of Dukhan. Ahmed Al-Kuwari opened the road, ahead of Ahmad Al-Muhannadi and Adel Abdulla, with Sordo, Al-Rajhi, Meeke and Al-Attiyah running in sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th. The bikes started in the order in which they had finished the Qualifying Stage, with Dabrowski leading from Al-Balooshi and Rees-Stavros.
Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and Abdulla lost some time early on with navigational errors, as overnight leader Al-Attiyah closed on the pack of Can-Ams ahead. The leading three bikes rode together through the early kilometres and dropped the chasing Al-Shatti and Abu Aishah, who were riding close together.
Al-Attiyah passed all his rivals except for Al-Kuwari and then was repassed by Al-Rajhi when he stopped for a short time with a puncture. But the Qatari was able to win the stage by 5min 14.8sec and led the rally by 5min 19.1sec. Meeke lost a little time midway through the special with a flat tyre of his own but recovered strongly to finish fourth overall, behind Seaidan, and managed to beat Sordo by 5min 06sec to take a T3 advantage of 5min 13.8sec into SS3.
Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah won the T4 special in his Can-Am, but Liparoti stopped with broken front left-suspension on the west coast, close to the beach at Dohat al Usanaid. Liparoti said: “I didn’t have an accident. The car felt out of control and then we stopped.”
Dabrowski, Al-Balooshi and Rees-Stavros rode together to the finish and entered a neutralisation section and the refuelling point before continuing on the track used by the cars in the morning.
Al-Rajhi and Al-Attiyah quickly overtook Ahmed Al-Kuwari to open the road on the third FIA stage and the pair caught the back-markers competing in the FIM National Baja. Seaidan lost further time searching for the correct track.
Dabrowski and Al-Balooshi dropped Rees-Savros and began to pull away after the latter made a navigational error. The Pole also edged clear of his Emirati rival but was forced to stop for a short time and the defending champion caught him again.
Despite opening the road, Al-Rajhi and Orr managed to snatch the stage win from Al-Attiyah and trim the Qatari’s advantage to 3min 52.6sec. Dabrowski also fended off Al-Balooshi to increase his advantage in the two-wheel category.
Strong winds are forecast for the final day of the event and Baja officials will be hoping that doesn’t restrict the flying of safety helicopters.
All things being equal, both the FIM and FIA categories will tackle a stage of 200.39km towards the south of Qatar, with a liaison of 93.43km bringing the finishers back to the ceremonial podium at Lusail. The first bike will be into the stage at 08.15hrs, with the top car on track from 10.55hrs.
FIA – Cars
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 2hr 21min 11.5sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 25min 04.1sec
3. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 48min 41.3sec
4. Kris Meeke (AND)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 50min 40.6sec
5. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Max Delfino (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 3hr 04min 01.7sec
6. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Lucchese (QAT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 12min 05.9sec
7. Sadoon Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Can-Am Maverick XRS T4) 3hr 18min 34.5sec
8. Rashid Al-Muhannadi (QAT)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T3) 3hr 21min 48.3sec
9. Yasmeen Koloc (ARE)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Can-Am Maverick DV21 (T3) 3hr 29min 23.6sec
10. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 34min 38.8sec
11. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Can-Am Maverick DV21 (T3) 3hr 36min 35.6sec
12. Khalid Al-Muhannadi (QAT)/Edward Lines (GBR) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T3) 3hr 46min 53.1sec
13. Muneef Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Tamer Hijazeen (SAU) Nissan Patrol 3hr 55min 58.1sec
14. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 56min 30.8sec
15. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 57min 52.4sec
16. Ahmad Al-Muhannadi (QAT)/Mubarak Al-Khelaifi (QAT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 59min 54.2sec
Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marc Sola (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) DNF SS3 – mechanical
Camelia Liparoti (SMR)/Xavier Garcia (ESP) Yamaha YXZ 1000R (T4) DNF SS2 – suspension
FIM – Bikes
1. Konrad Dabrowski (POL) Husqvarna FR450 3hr 49min 04.5sec
2. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) Husqvarna FR450 3hr 52min 28.4sec
3. Maki Rees-Stavros (GBR) KTM 450 EXC-F 4hr 04min 36.1sec
4. Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (QAT) Beta RR 4hr 20min 06.1sec
5. Thomas Kongshøj (DNK) Husqvarna FR450 4hr 36min 07.1sec
6. Robert Wallace (GBR) KTM 450 Rally 4hr 38min 03.5sec
7. Sheikh Mohamed Al-Thani (QAT) Beta RR 4hr 44min 03.0sec
8. Salman Farhan (BHR) Husqvarna FE450 4hr 45min 33.0sec
9. Abdulla Al-Shatti (KWT) KTM 450 Rally Replica 4hr 46min 11.0sec
10. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) KTM 450 4hr 54min 54.0sec, etc
FIM – Quads
1. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha 700 CC 5hr 30min 02.9sec
2. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha 6hr 34min 55.5sec
3. Emiel Stuckens (BEL) Can-Am DS450 6hr 54min 27.0sec
FIM – SSV
1. Abdullah Al-Khelaifi (QAT)/Abdulaziz Al-Jabri (QAT) Yamaha YXZ 1000RR TBA
2022 Qatar National Baja – Positions after Friday (Unofficial):
1. Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Hani Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol 1hr 41min 14.7sec
2. Motab Saud Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Bader Al-Ajmi (SAU) Nissan Patrol 1hr 52min 19.1sec
3. Abdullah Al-Rabban (QAT)/Pedro Santos (PRT) Jeep 2hr 32min 27.8sec
4. Salem Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Firas Al-Thefiri (KWT) Nissan Patrol 3hr 00min 35.1sec
5. Dhari Al-Dhafeeri (KWT)/Saffah Al-Dhafeeri (KWT) Can-Am Maverick X3 4hr 15min 02.7sec
1. Mishaal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) KTM 450 Rally 2hr 19min 52.4sec
2. Jaco Anderson (ZAF) KTM 500 EXC 2hr 24min 47.2sec
3. Mohammed Meerza (ARE) Husqvarna 2hr 41min 46.8sec
4. Bader Al-Bader (SAU) KTM EXC 500 2hr 41min 57.9sec
5. Ali Al-Ansari (QAT) KTM SXF 2hr 43min 06.1sec
6. Abdulrahman Al-Nasr (QAT) Yamaha 2hr 44min 03.1sec
7. Dom Arnoud (BEL) Suzuki LT-R450 2hr 45min 16.7sec, etc