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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Hail Saudi Baja: Russian Boris Gadasin holds distant second position.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel stormed into the overall lead after the second leg of the Saudi Arabian Hail Baja, which consisted of a punishing 298.85km selective section across classic Nafud desert terrain in the north-central region of the Kingdom, on Wednesday.

The defending regional FIA rally champion had been the revelation of last year's UAE Desert Challenge in his BMW X3CC and managed to finish the second day's selective section, just under 20 minutes quicker than the second-placed Russian crew of Boris Gadasin and Alexander Mironenko on this opening round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.

"It was not an easy stage at all," said co-driver Baumel. "There was a lot of camel grass everywhere. If you slipped off the defined track you could get into trouble. We started carefully, because it was our first event together, but Nasser pushed more towards the end. We took no chances. It would have been easy to make an expensive mistake."

This duo were always in control over the challenging desert terrain, but an interesting tussle developed further down the field, with the Czech crew of Miroslav Zapletal and Miloslav Janacek holding third position in their Mitsubishi L200 at the end of the leg. Overnight leader Tonni van Deijne slipped to fourth place and the UAE's Yayha Al-Helai and Hungary's Laszlo Palik completed the truly international top six.

FIA-seeded drivers Al-Attiyah and Gadasin were permitted to start the selective ahead of the field on safety grounds and the Qatari was, predictably, the first driver through PC1 in 44 minutes. He had gained two minutes on his Russian rival at this point, with Van Deijne and Zapletal maintained their third and fourth positions on the stage, but dropping behind the leading duo.

Al-Attiyah extended his overall lead through the second and third passage controls, with Gadasin, Zapletal and Van Deijne racing in order behind the Qatari. The UAE's Abdullah Al-Herais passed Michel Saleh's Land Rover and was running fifth on the road, with Saleh, Hungarian Laszlo Palik and the UAE's Saeed Al-Ketbi in close contention.

The UAE's Yayha Al-Helai, Kuwait's Saleh Bin Eidan and Qatar's Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah trailed in their wake, the Qatari grateful to team mate Saleh for the loan of the team's only spare differential to enable him to continue from 16th place this morning.

Lebanon's Emil Khneisser - who had been sixth through the super special stage - lost 40 minutes in the sand shortly after the start and was running well down the field, although he was forced to stop further into the section with serious overheating problems. Saudi Arabia's Saleh Al-Shodokhi started the day in ninth in a Nissan Patrol, but was sidelined with engine-related problems and Safah Al-Saidi crashed his Nissan before refuelling and continued.

Al-Attiyah reached the refuelling point at 177.10km in 2h 29m 40s, with Gadasin 7m 06s adrift, followed by a distant Zapletal and Van Deijne. The Czech driver was already 16m 29s behind the Qatari and overnight leader Van Deijne was a further 13m 57s behind the flying BMW driver, as this quartet pulled away from the rest of the field. Al-Helai, Palik, Saudi's Mubarak Al-Shammeri, Eidan and Saleh were the closest challengers.

Al-Herais was forced to stop with mechanical problems for around 10 minutes and slipped into the lower reaches of the top 10 and it was a miserable morning for Team Saluki's Mark Powell. The UAE-based English driver suffered clutch problems just eight kilometres into the section and was towed back to the start by friendly locals. He has the option to restart on Thursday morning with a 20-hour time penalty if the clutch in his Honda-engined Buggy can be repaired.

As Al-Attiyah duly cruised to the finish and extended his lead over Gadasin to a comfortable 19m 54s, Germany's Wolfgang Wels hit trouble. He slid into a ditch and continued but was then forced to stop again. Gadasin confirmed second place, but Van Deijne hit trouble after the fourth passage control and slipped out of the top six, as Zapletal, Al-Helai, Palik and Saleh reached the finish.

Tomorrow (Thursday) marks the third and final leg of the event and the first car will leave Maghwat at 08.00hrs before embarking upon a 50.39km road liaison to Qanna for the start of the 187.96km selective section, which loops back to a finish near Hail. Cars will be permitted a lengthy service at the end of the Baja and the podium finish is planned for 17.10hrs. The selective starts on winding sand tracks and heads into a series of small dunes, a section of rough ground through several wadis and subsequent higher dunes, before the run in to the finish over faster gravel tracks.

2008/02/05 | 13:01 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Neil Perkins | Coop: [ ]

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