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Al-Rajhi records third stage win
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 05 - 2017

AKTAU CITY, Kazakhstan — Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi recorded his third win in five days on the penultimate stage of Rally Kazakhstan between Kenderly and Aktau in the Mangystau oblast Thursday.
The second fastest time enabled Poland's Jakub Przygonski to trim Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah's overall lead to 6min 07sec heading into the final loop through the deserts north of Aktau City Friday. Al-Attiyah suffered a minor gearbox issue and lost some time in the sand dunes.
Al-Rajhi and German navigator Timo Gottschalk began the 370.9km competitive section fourth on the road and were quickly into a competitive pace. The Mini John Cooper Works Rally driver shadowed Przygonski and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul to the finish of a stage that retraced the tracks that had been used on leg two, but run in the opposite direction on this occasion. The special looped around Zhanaozen to finish just short of the remote settlement of Zhetybay.
Al-Rajhi said: "It was a good stage. There was a lot of dust and we start number four. We push to catch Kuba and Nasser and then we follow until the finish. It's good to take another stage win."
Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the day with a lead of 9min 51sec in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. Despite dropping time to Przygonski, Al-Attiyah has a relatively comfortable cushion to take into the final stage, as he bids to lead the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies for the first time this season. "We still have a good lead to take into the last day, but it was not an easy stage and we had a small problem with the gearbox in the second dunes," said Al-Attiyah. "It was nothing serious and we will be all set for the last day."
Aron Domzala was not able to close the gap on Przygonski and challenge for second position. The second Toyota driver ceded 11min 38sec to his fellow Pole and looks set to reach the finish in third overall. He now trails by 16min 18sec. Last year's rally winner, Yuriy Sazonov, remains a distant fourth overall in his Hummer H3 after another solid stage performance behind the official team drivers.
After losing two positions when vital suspension bolts gave way on the fourth stage on Wednesday, Miroslav Zapletal was back into a good pace on the penultimate stage and the Czech was able to set the fourth quickest time. But race officials awarded the Hummer H3 driver 100 hours of time penalties overnight and Miroslavn is out of contention for a top eight finish.
Yerden Shagirov had been awarded 6hrs 45min of time penalties for supposedly missing a series of waypoints on day three, but race officials removed these when it came to light that a tracking error had occurred. It meant the Kazakh was reinstated in fifth overall to the detriment of Lithuanian driver Antanas Juknevicius, who slipped back to sixth.
Seventh-placed Yasir Saeidan remains well clear of any of his T2 rivals in a Toyota Land Cruiser. With Russian navigator Alexey Kuzmich reading the road book, Saeidan now has a massive advantage in the category for series production cross-country vehicles.
Dmitry Pitulov and Zhanat Zhalimbetov lost further time in the last series of sand dunes, but there were good stage performances by Kirill Chernenkov, Viktor Khoroshavtsev and AMFK President Marat Abykayev. Adel Abdulla and Pavel Loginov were running a little further behind after ongoing delays.
The final selective starts 35.45km north of Aktau and includes parts of the opening timed test that were used last Sunday. The stage runs for 147.94km and includes repeat runs over the scenic tracks along the shores of the Caspian Sea. A short liaison of 41.75km then guides the finishing crews back to the podium in Aktau City.


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