Stretches of sand dunes wreak havoc for FIA T2 and amateur drivers
Turbo problems force Russian Viktor Khoroshavtsev out of day’s stage
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi put his day one accident to the back of his mind to claim the fastest time on the second selective section of Rally Kazakhstan between Aktau City and Kenderly on Monday.
But, with the Mini All4 Racing driver already heavily penalised by 100 hours for missing most of the opening day’s competitive action, Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah - driving an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux - was able to snatch the overall lead from Poland’s Jakub Przygonski.
“Okay today, but we have a big penalty,” said Al-Rajhi. “Now we are out of the rally (victory) and we try to enjoy and learn something. After 75km, I caught Nasser and Kuba (Przygonski). I pushed from the start. At the first dunes I see the dust and then, in the second dunes, I catch them and we exit together. I follow because I want to support Kuba. It was a nice stage. There was a lot of water in some places and the dunes were so difficult. They were very slow. There were bushes inside. For T2 and slow car, this will not be easy. There is also mud. Some people will be stuck. It was very fast to the finish.”
The day’s 368km stage wound 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. There were two passage controls, near Ushtagan after 102.92km, and east of Zhanaozen at 223.22km. A stretch of sand dunes before the first checkpoint caused numerous problems for the T2 drivers and the local amateur entrants.
Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel now lead the event by 3min 39sec from Przygonski in the second Mini. “To lead the rally is the most important thing,” said Al-Attiyah at the blustery Kenderly outpost adjacent to the Caspian Sea in southwest Kazakhstan.
“Yazeed is very far behind and he won the stage. But my target is to make a good race and now we are leading by a good time. We try to keep going like this because this rally is very new and not easy. Never have we been in an area like this, but we are quite happy. The dunes were not easy. Never in my life have I seen dunes like this.”
Flat tyres were Przygonski’s bugbear on a stage where even the scale of the dunes caught the Pole by surprise.
“Today we were opening the stage. It was really nice, a long stage. In some places the kilometres were passing really slowly. There were huge dunes. We did not expect dunes like this here in Kazakhstan. Then, we had two, almost three punctures. We lose about four minutes with this. In the last 40kms, we had a puncture and finished the stage on a flat tyre and we lose a little bit more there. The speed was good and we are still in game and will push tomorrow.”
Fellow Pole Aron Domzala managed to fend off a strong challenge from the Hummer H3 driver Miroslav Zapletal to hold on to third place in the second of the Overdrive Toyotas. Last year’s winner Yuriy Sazonov consolidated his fifth position with the seventh quickest time and fellow Kazakh Yerden Shagirov maintained sixth.
Lithuania’s Antanas Juknevicius benefited from the sixth quickest time to close the gap on Shagirov and Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa overcame delays early in the stage to set the ninth quickest time and move into an unofficial eighth overall.
Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Saeidan managed to pull further clear of Qatar’s Adel Abdulla after the tricky sand dunes cost the T2 runners a lot of time. AMFK President Marat Abykayev also lost time in the sand earlier in the stage and was on course to finish the stage in third place in T2.
Frenchman Claude Fournier was running near the rear of the field and was the sole entrant in T3 after Patrice Garrouste’s unfortunate retirement on Sunday evening. Fournier lost chunks of time before PC1.
Monday – as it happened
Strong winds had affected the area around Kenderly on Sunday night and for a couple of nights beforehand. Przygonski, meanwhile, led his rivals into the second 368km selective section that started 100km inland from Aktau City and wound its way through varied desert terrain, vast areas of camel grassland and the first series of sand dunes to finish 28.5km away from the remote bivouac location on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Patrice Garrouste was not able to continue. His mechanic had taken the T3-leading Polaris RZR 1000 to a car wash in Aktau City on Sunday evening and promptly rolled the vehicle. It was then checked by FIA scrutineer Lionel Carre, who discovered that the roll cage had been damaged.
Adel Abdulla’s TOK Sport mechanics repaired the broken transmission that forced him to tackle the majority of the opening stage in rear-wheel drive, Mohammed Abu Issa solved his jack problem after a first stage puncture and Al-Rajhi returned to action with repaired suspension after his accident on Sunday. The Saudi was permitted to start from fifth on the road behind Zapletal and ahead of Abu Issa.
Viktor Khoroshavtsev began the day in eighth overall and 10th on the road, but the Russian suffered turbo-related issues shortly after the start in his BMW X3 CC, returned to the stage start, passed the stage finish and headed directly to Kenderly. Al-Attiyah had passed Przygonski and was running six seconds ahead of the Pole on the road through the opening passage control in Ushtagan, but the man in form was Al-Rajhi.
He was comfortably the quickest driver in the stage, although Mini team-mate Abu Issa ceded another half an hour with ongoing delays and Marat Abykayev, Claude Fournier, Pavel Loginov, Dmitry Pitulov and Zhanat Zhalimbetov lost time in the first series of sand dunes before PC1.
The stage did a large loop around the deserts to the east of Zhanaozen and Al-Rajhi managed to catch Al-Attiyah and Przygonski by the remote second PC in the second set of dunes. The three drivers were running together on the track, with Domzala and Zapletal following close behind.
Przygonski lost time with a series of punctures in the closing stages and reached the stage finish on a flat tyre, but Al-Rajhi did enough to claim the stage win.
The third selective section of 421km is the longest of the entire event and the first of two loops out of the remote bivouac at the Kenderly Sea Resort. The competitive action starts just 7.6km from the overnight halt and runs inland, south of the town of Zhanaozen, and then deep into the heart of the remotest sections of the Mangystau oblast. The route then turns in a south-easterly direction and then begins to wind its way back to a finish a short distance from Kenderly via the small town of Senek.
2017 Rally Kazakhstan – positions on SS2 (unofficial @ 17.20hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 3hrs 55min 55sec
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hrs 00min 11sec
3. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Mini All4 Racing 4hrs 04min 46sec
4. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hrs 06min 13sec
5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SLO) Hummer H3 Evo VII 4hrs 08min 47sec
6. Antanas Juknevicius (LTU)/Darius Vaiciulis (LTU) Toyota Hilux 4hrs 38min 58sec
7. Yerden Shagirov (KAZ)/Dmitro Tsyro (UKR) Toyota Hilux 4hrs 40min 25sec
8. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Vitalyi Yevtyekhov (KAZ) Hummer H3 Evo VIII 4hrs 41min 45sec
9. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 4hrs 42min 47sec
2017 Rally Kazakhstan – positions after SS2 (unofficial @ 17.20hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hrs 34min 03sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Mini All4 Racing 6hrs 37min 42sec
3. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hrs 41min 55sec
4. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SLO) Hummer H3 Evo VII 6hrs 45min 35sec
5. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Vitalyi Yevtyekhov (KAZ) Hummer H3 Evo VIII 7hrs 21min 10sec
6. Yerden Shagirov (KAZ)/Dmitro Tsyro (UKR) Toyota Hilux 7hrs 24min 14sec
7. Antanas Juknevicius (LTU)/Darius Vaiciulis (LTU) Toyota Hilux 7hrs 28min 13sec
8. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 8hrs 25min 50sec
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