Agencies Erfoud, Morocco
Nissan’s Adel Hussein Abdulla gained and maintained a slender lead in the FIA T2 category at the OiLibya Rally of Morocco after the second half of a gruelling Marathon stage of 315km yesterday.
The Qatari led the eighth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies at the overnight halt, after his main series rival Yasir Saeidan lost time late on Tuesday afternoon, but the Saudi hit back on day three to regain much of the lost time in the frantic battle for the FIA T2 Championship for Series Production Cross-Country Vehicles.
“I started the day 25 minutes ahead of Yasir,” said Abdulla, who now leads his rival by just 2min 09sec after losing time following a collision with a tree. “The beginning of the stage was sandy and then it became very rough with a lot of stones. I was driving within a certain rhythm, not pushing too much and not driving slowly. I was taking things easy, because the tracks were so narrow and twisty and you cannot set fastest times on those roads.
“One of the other drivers took a different route and came ahead of me and I got stuck in his dust. My main competitor overtook me and I got delayed in the dust and I hit a tree that I could not see on the right side of the car. After that, the car stopped and my navigator could not open his door. We managed to repair the car and continued at the same rhythm.
“Yesterday was a Marathon stage, so the strategy was to take things easy but, tomorrow, is a long and rough day and we hope to stay leading the T2 category and try and build a gap to the end.”
Abdulla grabbed the outright T2 category lead through the closing kilometres of the Marathon stage on Tuesday afternoon when Saeidan was delayed. The Qatari was classified in an excellent 21st overall and 25 minutes ahead of the Saudi in the overall rankings heading towards the third selective section of 315km on Wednesday. Abdullah Saleh was a distant third and Marco Piana held fourth place.
Saeidan clawed some time back through the checkpoints on the third stage and completed the section in a time of 3hr 32min 06sec. Abdulla carded a time of 3hr 55min 29sec to hang on grimly to his first position by the narrowest of margins. Qatar’s Mohammed al-Harqan was third fastest on the day but Saudi driver Abdullah Saleh holds third in the overall classification.
Abdulla is running a Nissan Patrol with support from Nissan Qatar, Nissan Middle East and the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and is working alongside French navigator Sébastien Delaunay for the first time.
Two further selective sections of 319km and 230km take place today and tomorrow, with the route heading to a finish in Erfoud tomorrow afternoon.
Positions after leg 3 (T2):
1. Abdulla Abdulla (QAT)/Sebastian Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Patrol 9hr 50min 34sec
2. Yasir Saeidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Land Cruiser 200 9hr 52min 43sec
3. Abdullah Saleh (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Land Cruiser 10hr 22min 06sec
4. Nicolas Falloux (FRA)/Antonia de Roissard (FRA) Toyota Land Cruiser 11hr 41min 03sec
5. Mohamed al-Harqan (QAT)/Nasser al-Kuwari (QAT) Toyota Land Cruiser 11hr 41min 37sec, etc
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