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Merzouga Rally 2018 Official Teaser

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Yazeed Al-Rajhi holds on to claim victory for Mini in Kazakhstan

- Poland’s Przygonski extends FIA World Cup lead with second; Vasilyev third in MINI 1-2-3
- Russia’s Ivanov wins T2 category; Navarro holds on to beat Pena Campo in T3

Yazeed Al-Rajhi held his nerve to confirm an impressive victory in Rally Kazakhstan, round five of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, in Aktau City on Saturday.

 

Needing to stay in front of X-raid MINI John Cooper Works Rally team-mate and FIA World Cup leader Jakub Przygonski through the final 148.52km special, the Saudi Arabian driver and German navigator Timo Gottschalk set the fastest time on the timed section and reached the finish 4min 07sec in front of the Pole and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul. The result enabled Przygonski to extend his lead in the FIA World Cup standings to an unofficial 43 points.

A delighted Al-Rajhi said: "We made it. We are here. We also had a puncture before the finish but it was okay. I started seventh. There was a lot of dust in the road. If there was a team order we would have respected it, but no team order was coming so we took the win. I am very happy."

Przygonski added: "It was a nice rally for us and the outcome went down to the last day. We were pushing to the end. It was a long race with a lot of navigation, fast piste and some tricky dunes. We had no big problems. It was a nice fight with Vasilyev and Yazeed to the end. The time difference was small and, on a long race like this, that was really nice."

The Russian duo of Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov delivered another solid performance in their MINI Cooper Countryman to round off the podium positions for MINI with the third fastest time on the final stage. Zhiltsov said: "It was a good fight for 2,000km and only some minutes between the cars. We are happy that we finished and look forward to coming back to this great race next year."

X-raid team director Sven Quandt was happy: "1-2-3 is good and five cars in the top six is a top result and the best for a long time, no question. Everyone drove a good race. Yazeed was a little bit faster and Kuba (Jakub) too and Vladimir drove a good race. It was always an open race since the first stage."

Czech driver Martin Prokop could not match the MINIs on this occasion but the former WRC star remained in the hunt for the FIA World Cup with points for fourth place in his Ford F-150 Evo. “No problems today. It was good. The race was quite nice. The result is not as we wished. We will see next time.”

Frenchman Luc Alphand overcame several niggles and punctures along the way to bring X-raid’s new MINI Buggy to the finish in fifth place with German co-driver Andreas Schulz. “It was fantastic to drive here. It was a good race. The Buggy is still in development and we have to work on small things. Our pace was great. Without problems we can be on the podium and fighting for the victory. The landscape was fantastic.”

G-Force driver Boris Gadasin hit late trouble when he broke a steering rod trying to follow Alphand and clouted a ditch. His demise enabled fellow Russian Viktor Khoroshavtsev to seal sixth position in the last of the MINI John Cooper Works Rally cars. England’s Harry Hunt climbed to seventh in the PH Sport Peugeot 3008 DKR and Russia’s Andrey Rudskoy was eighth in the second of the G-Force cars.

Hunt said: "It was very fast and good fun today. It was only a short stage and a good finish to the rally. It’s been a fast rally with some tricky dunes and a great experience. I will definitely come back next year. The gearbox broke on the second day and we lost 1hr 45min, but the rest of the week has been good."

Denis Krotov reached the finish in ninth and Kazakh Yerdan Shagirov rounded off the top 10 after South Racing’s Jürgen Schröder rolled his Nissan Navara out of 11th place after bouncing over a ditch 18km into the final stage.

Spaniard Fernando Alvarez finished the special in his Volkswagen Amarok but had already incurred a fistful of time penalties for earlier delays and was not classified in the final results. Frenchman Ronan Chabot had also endured a troubled event, but managed to bring the sole-surviving Overdrive Toyota Hilux to the finish in 16th overall amongst the FIA entrants.

Kirill Chernenkov won the last stage in the T2 section, but the damage had been done for the Kazakh earlier in the rally and Russia’s Konstantin Ivanov claimed maximum points and a winning margin of 35min 12sec over OFF-ROAD Kazakhstan’s Marat Abykayev. Qatar’s Adel Abdulla closed the gap on championship leader Ahmed Al-Shegawi by finishing in third place in a rented Toyota Land Cruiser. Chernenkov was classified in fourth.

Frenchman Patrice Garrouste won the last stage in the T3 category, but Spain’s Santiago Navarro held on to his advantage to confirm overall victory over fellow countryman José Pena Campo by the margin of 1hr 19min 31sec. Kazakh Dmitry Pitulov was third and Garrouste finished fourth.

Sergey Kupriyanov coasted through the last stage to win the National Rally in his Team Kamaz Masters truck. Evgenii Sukhovenko and Aleey Ignatov were also classified as finishers in the GAZelle NEXT trucks alongside Andrey Karginov in the second of the Kamaz Masters trucks.

2018 Rally Kazakhstan – positions on SS6:
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 1hrs 17min 41sec
2. Harry Hunt (GBR)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Peugeot 3008 DKR, 1hrs 17min 48sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI Cooper Countryman, 1hrs 18min 21sec
4. Luc Alphand (FRA)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, 1hrs 19min 04sec
5. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 1hrs 19min 36sec
6. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo, 1hrs 21min 00sec

2018 Rally Kazakhstan – positions after SS6 (unofficial @ 14.00hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 17hrs 59min 18sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 18hrs 03min 25sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI Cooper Countryman, 18hrs 06min 43sec
4. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo, 18hrs 31min 15sec
5. Luc Alphand (FRA)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, 19hrs 20min 11sec
6. Victor Khoroshavtsev (RUS)/Dmitry Pavlov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 20hrs 14min 29sec
7. Harry Hunt (GBR)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Peugeot 3008 DKR, 20hrs 16min 15sec
8. Andrey Rudskoy (RUS)/Evgenii Zagorodniuk (RUS) G-Force Bars, 21hrs 04min 58sec
9. Denis Krotov (RUS)/Dmytro Tsyro (RUS) BMW X3 CC, 22hrs 43min 20sec
10. Yerden Shagirov (KAZ)/Vladimir Demyanenko (RUS) Toyota Hilux, 23hrs 03min 32sec

FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – standings after round 5 (unofficial):
1. Jakub Przygonski (POL), 186 pts
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS), 143 pts
3. Martin Prokop (CZE), 137 pts
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU), 60 pts
5. Yasir Seaidan (SAU), 58 pts...

Neil Perkins,


Marie-France Estenave pour MFE-Live.com

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