By Sports Reporter/Doha
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah looked tired, yet unstoppable at the end of the ninth stage of the Silk Way Rally yesterday, with more than two hour advantage in the overall standings.
The event has taken participants through three countries — Russia, Mongolia, and now China — in a test of endurance through various terrains.
Al-Attiyah won the 501km stage, which had a selective section of 290-odd kilometres, in a time of three hours 52 minutes and 17 seconds, nine minutes 12 seconds less than Chinese driver Han Wei in the Buggy Geely SMG.
While al-Attiyah strengthened his grip on the event that has eluded him so far in his career, Wei’s second place finish in the stage was good enough to push him into second position in the overall standings.
“It was a very difficult stage today. I have raced many Dakars but I have never known such an exhausting special,” al-Attiyah said after the stage win yesterday. “Like yesterday it was very interesting, but the body, already tired, was really tested today. There’s only one stage left now to finish this Silk Way Rally in style.”
Another Overdrive driver Eric Van Loon was third in the stage.
Wei was expected to go up against Jerome Pelichet in the latter’s Buggy Optimus, but giving away more than half an hour, the Frenchman finished eighth but nevertheless kept his third place on the podium.
Still chasing a stage win, Mathieu Serradori (Buggy CR6 SRT) perhaps pushed too hard. The driver from the South of France hit a rock and tore off a wheel 50 kilometres from the finish.
The ninth stage was a fast and beautiful route, mostly set along sandy roads. This was the moment when one got to admire the amazing fixed dunes of the Gobi Desert. The next part on the way to the finish was slower, as bumps and dunettes were mixed with dry river beds, but the last kilometres were very fast.
On the two-wheelers, ex-moto-crosser Andrew Short (Rockstar Husqvarna) won his first ever FIM World Championship special. Behind him, another good result for Paulo Gonclaves (Hero Motorsport) who must be regretting the broken engine that pushed him out of the running overall. Also happy with his day was Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha Rally Team) with third 3rd (at 1:45).
Overall Sam Sunderland maintained his lead coming into the final stage today, with a steady fourth place (+4:19) yesterday.
The last racing stage, a total distance of 556km with a selective section of 255kms, starts in the foothills and becomes harder and more technical with every kilometre, going through the canyons, across plateaux, along twisting roads and dry river beds. After covering the first half of the section, racers will reach a valley. The last kilometres are set along a smooth and fast dirt track, which will define the rally champion.
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