Day 3 – as it happened
A mere 14 seconds separated the top four riders at the start of the third stage, although leader Coma had the slight benefit of following his main rivals into the desert and the onus was on Lopez to perform accurate navigation from the outset.
By the first passage control, at 109.56km, the leading quintet had been locked in a fascinating tussle for supremacy and Coma had the slight edge. He was running just seven seconds quicker than Gonçalves, but the pair had begun to catch Lopez, Przygonski and Ullevalseter. The Norwegian was caught and overtaken by the Portuguese and he lost over two minutes to his rival.
At refuelling, after 193.33km, Coma had begun to press home his advantage and the Spaniard was running just behind Gonçalves. His virtual stage lead was 2min 15sec. Przygonski and Lopez were riding close together in third and fourth, but Ullevalseter had dropped behind after losing three gears. He dropped seven minutes to Coma and any chance of winning the Sealine event had gone.
Al-Kitbe continued his excellent run of form after his day one set back to take the early lead in the quad category from Mohammed Al-Shamsi and Sonik. But the Emirati and the Pole regained the upper hand by PC2 and Al-Shamsi was the virtual stage leader heading to the third checkpoint.
Coma’s plan of attack was on full song through the third PC after 286.72km and the Spaniard manage to pass his four rivals and edged into a 2min 31sec virtual stage lead over Gonçalves, as the leading duo and Przygonski and Lopez arrived together at the control. Ullevalseter had been running with crippling gearbox issues but he fell after the refuelling point, broke a leg and personally summoned immediate medical assistance by telephone.
Coma held on to his lead to seal the stage win by 2min 01sec to ensure that he took an overall advantage of 64 seconds into the final leg on Friday. Gonçalves was second and Sonik maintained the overall lead in the quad section, despite a useful ride by Adel Hussein Abdullah to claim the stage win.
Car driver Schlesser began day three with a comfortable 35min 34sec advantage over Holowczyc and headed off into distance once again. Coffaro and Rakhimbayev took up the pursuit once Toyota team-mate Martin Kaczmarski stopped near the stage start. The rookie had been feeling ill overnight and was given medical permission to restart after an examination.
Schlesser was 15 seconds in front of Rakhimbayev at PC1, but the revelation of the morning had been Qatar’s Faisal Al-Attiya in his Hummer. After feeling unwell on Wednesday, the local driver restarted in eighth position on the road and he was well ahead of Schlesser at the first checkpoint. Holowczyc reached the PC 46 seconds in front of the Frenchman in second position.
Al-Attiya continued his charge through the middle part of the stage and had overtaken everyone except for Schlesser by PC2. He was 12min 33sec in front of the Frenchman as the route meandered north through the southern Qatar wilderness. He soon passed Schlesser as well and reached PC3 with a lead of 23min 10sec over Schlesser.
Al-Attiya stopped after the third passage control and the chasing pack moved in front once more, but Holowczyc also ground to a halt on the run north with two flat tyres and still finished the special in first position after Schlesser and Coffaro lost time trying to find the correct track and Al-Attiya got stuck on the crest of a sand dune.
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