By Sports Reporter/Dalanzadgad, Mongolia
There’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing’ in rally-raid, as Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah found out during the Silk Way Rally yesterday.
On the finish line of the sixth stage, a couple of kilometres from the bivouac, the blue sky gave way to clouds and some light rain. Getting out of his Toyota, al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) wasn’t wearing his usual sunny smile. He knew he had just put at risk his run of five consecutive stage wins.
Like some of the best bike riders before him, al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel went off course by about three kilometres on the stage from Mandalgovi to Dalanzadgad.
But what saved al-Attiyah’s stage-winning streak was the fact that Russian Denis Krotov, who had gotten way ahead in his Mini JCW, got stuck with a puncture and gearbox problems.
That allowed al-Attiyah to get ahead despite having to do a course correction as the Qatari ace, aiming to win his first Silk Way Rally crown, stayed on track with his sixth straight stage win.
“The special was difficult to navigate. You had to really pay attention. At certain points we hesitated, but in the end everything worked out OK,” said al-Attiyah.
“It is the sixth victory on the trot for us. Tomorrow is relaxed – just 550 kilometres of liaison to go into China, where we will discover the dunes of the Gobi Desert,” he added.
The second place went to Eric Van Loon, allowing the Overdrive Team to score another double. The Dutchman finally beat Mathieu Serradori (Buggy CR6 SRT) by just 10 seconds. Overall al-Attiyah is now 40 minutes ahead of the Chinese driver Liu Kun (Hanwei SMG) and 15 minutes up on Jérôme Pélichet (Optimus Raid Lynx), eighth on today’s stage.