Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel continued their assault on the 2019 Qatar Cross-Country Rally, with an emphatic win on Stage 2 of the tough event. The Toyota Hilux crew posted a time of 2:52:29 over the 324 km-long stage, at an average speed of 112.5 km/h.
This put them 3:32 clear of their nearest challengers, in the form of MINI’s Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk; and 4:41 in front of the fellow Toyota Hilux crew of Yazeed Alrajhi and Dirk von Zitzewitz.
“We had a good run again today, even though it was a very tough stage,” said Al Attiyah after returning to the race bivouac in the Qatari capital of Doha. “We had to open the road today, so to come away with a win is a very good result for us.”
There was a tight battle for second place, with only 1:09 separating Alrajhi/Von Zitzewitz from Przygonski/Gottchalk ahead of them. In the end, however, the MINI crew just managed to pip the Toyota Hilux to the finish, and now find themselves the meat in a Toyota sandwich, with Al Attiyah/Baumel leading the event by 8:03 over Przygonski/Gottschalk. Alrajhi/Von Zitzewitz are just 38 seconds behind the MINI crew after two stages.
Stage 2 brought disappointment for Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul, in the second Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux. The pair had their tails up after finishing second on the opening stage, but a run of bad luck with punctures put paid to their efforts.
“We really had bad luck in the rough sections today,” said a tired Ten Brinke after finally returning to Doha. “We carry three spare wheels as a matter of course, but today we had four punctures – so we simply ran out of options.”
The crew had no option but to wait for the next Toyota Hilux crew to catch up with them, in order to secure another wheel. Unfortunately, the next car ran way down the order, and the Dutch driver lost 2:10:34 to Al Attiyah on the day.
“All isn’t lost yet,” said the ever positive Ten Brinke. “This race still has a long way to go and anything can still happen. But nonetheless we would’ve liked to be fighting for the lead at this point, rather than trying to claw back time.”
The pair will have to find the balance between pushing and driving with caution, as Stage 3 offers more of the terrain experienced on Stage 2 – dunes, rocky tracks and wadi crossings. At 352 km in length, Stage 3 will be anything but easy, and tricky navigation can still turn the entire race on its head. The 2019 Qatar Cross-Country Rally ends on February 26th, in the city of Doha.