|Sealine Rally Qatar: Competitors from 27 countries take the start in Doha.|
Competitors from a staggering 27 countries and virtually every region on the planet were flagged away from the ceremonial start of the 2013 Sealine Cross-Country Rally by Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, president of the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and president of the FIA Cross-Country Commission, on Doha Corniche on Monday afternoon.
Four days of gruelling desert motor sport action awaits 50 drivers and co-drivers, 13 motorcyclists and seven quad riders before the survivors reach the finish podium at Sealine, south of Doha, on Friday afternoon.
Top seeds in the car and motorcycle categories are Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Buggy) and Spain’s Marc Coma (KTM), although riders crossed the start podium in reverse order with the UAE’s Mohammed Al-Shamsi leading the motorcycles and quads from the start on Monday.
Several of the leading drivers and riders joined Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah at the official pre-event press conference at the Losail International Circuit on Monday.
Other competitors from as far afield as Europe, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and the USA finalised their preparations for the start of the action on Tuesday morning, while scrutineering of the remaining cars was completed at the Losail international circuit.
Spaniard Marc Coma was forced to miss the Dakar Rally through injury, but the KTM rider was in confident and upbeat mood at the pre-event media gathering at Losail.
“It has been a strange year,” said Coma, who will start the opening stage on Tuesday from 10th position on the road. “I was forced to miss the Dakar with a problem with a nerve in my shoulder after I dislocated it in Morocco. Then I won the Desert Challenge and now I am here to try and win again. I have good memories of my race here last year. I won on my first rally in Qatar. It will not be easy this time. The entry is strong and the stages are long and demanding and the navigation is sure to be difficult.”
Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser finished fourth in last year’s inaugural Sealine event and arrives at the start this year with a superb opportunity to improve his campaign to win this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
“With the big man sitting next to me (Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah) here I am not really looking at a chance to win this rally,” joked Schlesser, a twice Dakar winner. “But, for sure, I am looking at the podium and a chance to gain some more points.”
Local rider Adel Hussein Abdullah was the third classified quad finisher last year and lines up against six other rivals on this occasion, including the Polish defending champion Rafal Sonik and Qatari Mohammed Abu Issa. The UAE’s Obaid Al-Kitbe led until the final stage last year and returns to exact revenge on his Polish rival.
“I had a podium last time and I would like to finish my fourth Qatar Baja,” said Hussein. “A big thank you to Nasser Khalifa, our president, for his support to enable me to take part in these rallies. It will be a long and difficult rally but I am ready for the challenge.”
Yayha Al-Helai was present in Losail at the start of the race, but the Emirati opted to cede his place on the starting list after a disappointing performance in Abu Dhabi. His son Mansour duly carried the family mantle into the Sealine event and the experienced navigator Khalid Al-Kendi sat alongside the youngster.
Peruvian Raul Orlandini faced a race against time to prepare his car for the event after suffering an engine failure in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. His team managed to fly in 275kg of spare parts for the Jaton Racing Toyota Land Cruiser and the engine was replaced in Qatar before the final technical checks.
“I think competitors will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of the terrain,” said Iain Black, clerk of the course for the motorcycle and quad categories. “Every event is characterised by certain things. When you go to the Desert Challenge in the UAE you are going to face sand dunes. I think here, in Qatar, we have a totally different challenge. There will be some very tricky navigation and, for sure, we have dunes and we also have a lot of rocky and stony areas to give competitors the complete challenge. None of the stages are the same.”
Competitive action gets underway from the Sealine bivouac at 05.45hrs for the motorcycles and 75 minutes later for the cars on Tuesday morning. Ahead of the international field lies a demanding selective section of 405.12km that starts 5.5km from the campsite and finishes just 4.49km away.
The opening timed test features a series of sand dunes at the start and then runs through an area near a series of small hills before the terrain gives way to faster tracks. Competitors will again tackle a series of tricky sand dunes en route to the finish.
Leading starters Cars:
401. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Lucas Cruz Senra (ESP) | Desert Buggy
402. Jean-Louis Schlesser (FRA)/Konstantin Zhiltstov (RUS) | Schlesser Original
404. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) | Mini All4 Racing
405. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Vitaly Yevtyekhov (RUS) | G-Force Proto
406. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) | H3 Evo 5
407. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Guglemin (BRA) | Mitsubishi Pajero
408. Peter van Merksteijn Jr. (NLD)/Eddy Chevallier (BEL) | HRX Ford
409. Nunzio Coffaro (VEN)/Daniel Meneses (VEN) | Toyota Hilux
Leading starters Bikes:
1. Marc Coma (ESP) | KTM 450 Rally Replica
3. Jakub Przygonski (POL) | KTM 450 Rally Replica
4. Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) | Speedbrain 450 Rally
6. Quinn Cody (USA) | Speedbrain 450 Rally
7. Francesco Lopez (CHL) | KTM 450 Rally Replica
8. Khalid Khamis Ozair (ARE) | Honda CR 450 X
9. Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (NOR) | KTM 450 Rally Replica
10. Luis Carlos Gonzalez (ESP) | Honda CRE 450 X
12. Stuart Charleston (AUS) | Kawasaki KLX 450 R
Leading starters Quads:
201. Rafal Sonik (POL) | Honda TRX 700
203. Obaid Al-Kitbe (ARE) | Honda TRX 700
205. Adel Hussein Abdullah (QAT) | Suzuki ATV
207. Atif Al-Zarouni (ARE) | Honda TRX 700
208. Pablo Copetti (ARG) | Yamaha Raptor 700
209. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) | Yamaha Raptor 700
210. Mohammed Al-Shamsi (ARE) | Honda TRX 700
2013/04/22 | 20:26 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PERKINS