Defending champions Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mattieu Baumel, driving a South African Toyota Hilux, won Stage 4 of the 2016 Sealine Cross-Country Rally on Thursday, April 22nd. This saw the crew extend their overall lead to just under fourteen minutes – well clear of second-placed Yazeed Al Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk (MINI).
“We had a great day in the car today,” said former Dakar winner, Al-Attiyah, from the overnight bivouac at the Losail International Race Circuit. “We’ve been thinking about the final stage, and concentrating on keeping things tidy and consistent in the car. We pushed where it was safe to push, and looked after our car where the terrain was rough.”
With that said, Al-Attiyah reported no problems with the Toyota Hilux, and was confident that they could turn up the wick a lot more if challenged: “Our car is good and strong, so we know we have plenty in reserve if needed.”
Al-Attiyah/Baumel held a lead of 13:58 after four stages, with just one stage to go. They won stage four by 5:22 over Al Rajhi/Gottschalk, recording four successive stage wins in the process. The 354 km stage featured fast tracks, with some rough sections along the middle part. The final 50 km was sandy and smooth, and according to Al-Attiyah: “Really nice to drive.”
The South African-built and developed Toyota Hilux that Al-Attiyah and Baumel are racing in Qatar is the same vehicle that attained third place overall in this year’s Dakar Rally. The vehicle was campaigned by Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz during Dakar, competing as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team. The vehicle is managed and maintained by Overdrive Racing during its international sojourn.
This vehicle is very nearly identical to the two FIA-spec Toyota Hilux vehicles that compete in the Donaldson Cross-Country Championship on local soil, where they are campaigned by Leeroy Poulter and Anthony Taylor respectively. Poulter and navigator Rob Howie are the defending South African champions; while Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy are multiple champions in their own right.
The final stage of the 2016 Sealine Cross-Country Rally, Stage 5, consists of 351 km of typical desert racing, and takes place on Friday, April 22nd. A mix of rocky tracks and sandy roads, together with 70 km of dunes, will see the remaining crews complete the five-day event, when they reach the finish at the Losail International Race Circuit in Doha.