Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian navigator Tom Colsoul were the early leaders of the inaugural Rally Kazakhstan, after a 268.23km loop stage around the remote deserts of the Mangystau oblast to the north of Aktau City, on Sunday.
Low-lying fog in the Caspian depression had delayed the start of the day’s action by 2hrs 20mins, but it failed to stop the Pole clocking a time of 2hrs 32min 56sec in his Orlen Team Mini All4 Racing to open up an unofficial lead of 56 seconds over Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux.
Fellow Pole Aron Domzala settled in well to hold third overall in the second of the Belgian-run Toyota Hiluxes and Czech Miroslav Zapletal was fourth in his Hummer H3 Evo VII. Yuriy Sazonov began the defence of his Rally Kazakhstan title strongly by holding fifth in a second Hummer and fellow Kazakh driver Yerden Shagirov rounded off the top six.
Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa held sixth overall until he stopped for nearly an hour with technical issues after 218.66km of the stage. Lithuania’s Antanas Juknevicius and Russian Viktor Khoroshavtsev duly moved up  to seventh and eighth in their respective Toyota Hilux and BMW X3 CC.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi endured a disappointing start in his X-raid Mini All4 Racing and suspension damage after an awkward jump forced him to stop after 81km of the special. “It happened at a big jump and the car landed on one wheel at the rear, sideways, and the suspension broke,” said X-raid team director Sven Quandt.
Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Saeidan and Qatar’s Adel Abdulla were evenly matched in the T2 contest. Saeidan managed to edge into an unofficial lead of 26 seconds over his Qatari rival. Marat Abykayev was a close third, while Patrice Garrouste held the advantage over T3 rival Claude Fournier on the opening stage.
Sunday – as it happened
Fog and gloomy conditions greeted the crews to the start of Rally Kazakhstan after some overnight rain in an area that had already been affected by heavy rain three days before the rally. The recce team of Thierry Magnaldi and Gilles Picard reported that stretches of the opening stage were very muddy, but no major changes were made to the route of the first stage.
After the late arrival of their cars from the border with Turkmenistan on Saturday evening – following a recent border closure – Jakub Przygonski and Adel Abdulla were permitted a late scrutineering time on Sunday morning. The X-raid mechanics had worked into the night to prepare Przygonski’s car, as the container had been forced to leave Qatar straight after the last round in April and there had been no time to change vital parts beforehand.
Al-Attiyah eventually led 19 rivals into the opening loop stage and the FIA crews were followed by several cars and a MAN truck, driven by Artur Ardavichus, entered in a National Rally. The stage start was delayed for 2hrs 20mins, however, on safety grounds because of low-lying fog and thick cloud cover.
Al-Attiyah settled into a fast pace and began to pull away from the chasing pack, but Al-Rajhi stopped with his suspension damage after 81km. The Qatari continued to run in front from Przygonski, Domzala, Zapletal and Shagirov on the northerly run passed nearby Fort Shevchenko, but Przygonski went on to reach the stage finish in a time of 2hrs 32min 56sec to snatch the stage win. It was a fast stage by Kazakhstan standards, but more demanding and varied desert terrain is on the schedule for the coming days.
A liaison of 100.10km guides teams to the start of the second 368km selective section, east of Aktau City. The stage winds its way in a loop via the town of Ushtagan and south of the remote oil and gas hub of Zhanaozen to finish 28.5km north of the Kenderly Sea Resort, close to the border with Turkmenistan.

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