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Sealine Rally: Al-Attiyah, Casale stay clear as Sunderland, Quintanilla set up bike showdown.

NEIL PERKINS

LOSAIL, Qatar: Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Chile's Ignacio Casale and a tied Sam Sunderland and Pablo Quintanilla lead their respective car, quad and motorcycle categories after the third and longest selective section of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Wednesday. Al-Attiyah and Quintanilla recorded stage wins in very different circumstances. Overnight motorcycle leader Toby Price retired with a back injury before the restart and that enabled Sunderland and Quintanilla to utilise their favourable starting positions to catch their rivals and edge into a shared lead, with both riders tied to the second. Quintanilla claimed the stage win by 1min 58sec, although the nature of cross-country motorcycle racing dictates that he may give some or all of that back to his KTM rival on Thursday. Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel led from the front of the car field and progressed in a sensible manner to win the special by 40 seconds and propel their Toyota Hilux Overdrive to an outright lead of 8min 36sec over Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi. The two rivals remain in a class of their own after three days of competition and were separated by seconds throughout the entire stage, a minor navigational error near the end costing the Saudi a potential stage win. Third-placed Vladimir Vasilyev is now 53min 29sec adrift of the Qatari in his Mini All4 Racing. "I lost the way a little, but we had a good run without any problems," said Al-Attiyah. "I am quite happy. This is our plan. We do same speed and we keep everyone behind. Just one slow puncture for the last 100km, but we kept on going." Al-Rajhi said: "We do it well until the end. Then, at a junction, we went more left and no right and that's where he lost the time, maybe more than one minute. A lot of cap. If you follow sometimes it is not a good idea. A lot of times the cap is not there. I think we can still drive hard tomorrow. We were leading at the PC before the finish." Motorcycle stage winner Quintanilla said: "Today was really difficult for me. I damaged the rear wheel on a big jump near the start and drove like that until the refuel. I did not think I could make it. Then, at the refuelling, I stop and the team changed the wheel. I was lucky to finish the race. I am happy. It was good stage. We have two more days to go. For sure, it is going to be really tough." "In the end it seemed to be quite predictable. I arrived with Pablo together," said Sunderland. "We are fighting for seconds. It's becoming tricky with the other riders coming in between us. I'm just happy to stay safe. I had six months off with my broken femur. I don't want to take too many risks, especially now that Toby has stopped, Laia is out and another rider had a crash this morning at a dangerous place. Pablo damaged his rear wheel there. It was marked as danger three in the road book at the top of the crest, but the track dropped away by three metres." Ignacio Casale maintained a comfortable lead over Rafal Sonik in the quad category, although the Pole stopped at the scene of a crash involving fellow Sonik Team rider Julian Villarrubia near the stage start. That time should be returned to the recent Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner at the evening's FIM Jury meeting at Losail. Behind Vasilyev, Mini colleague Ricardo Porem holds fourth overall, Kazakh Yuriy Sazonov is fifth and the experienced former Dakar winner Jutta Kleinschmidt is driving well in sixth. Local driver Adel Hussein Abdullah began the stage with a solid advantage over Saudi's Yasir Seaidan in the T2 category for Series Production Cross-Country Vehicles in his Nissan Middle East-supported Patrol. He ceded 4min 40sec of that hard-earned lead on the day's stage and heads into the final two specials with an advantage of 4min 06sec Carlo Cinotto pipped Michele Cinotto to the T3 stage win in his Polaris RZR 1000s and holds the class lead at the end of the day.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:7QATA
Date:Apr 21, 2016
Words:708
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