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Brit Sunderland wins Qatar rally

Briton Sam Sunderland completed the four tough days in the desert, plus the super-fast prologue in a total of 15:50:18 hours, to finish almost eight minutes ahead of Portuguese rider Paolo Goncalves to take victory in the Qatar rally. He extends his lead in the rally world championship after two of five rounds. Matthias Walkner came in five and a half minutes later. Chilean Pablo Quintanilla was fourth. Walker was third in the final stage and Sunderland was fifth across the line. KTM factory rider Antoine Meo (FRA) finished overall seventh. He only rejoined the team for the first round of the world championship in Abu Dhabi after a long injury pause.

Sunderland won two of the four desert stages, and Walker and Quintanilla took line honors in the other two. The British rider had to open the track for the final timed special but started with a cushion of 12:42 minutes.

Sunderland: “Obviously starting first on the last day I expected to lose some time, and for the guys to catch me. But I had a bit of a cushion in the overall and I could take it pretty easy. But the overall win showed I had a good rhythm, and I felt good. The bike was awesome all week and the team was great, so I really appreciate all the support. It’s a great feeling to get the win here and its good for the world championships. We now have a little break in the calendar, and then it will be back to the fight.” Asked if he had more confidence after his win at the Dakar Rally, he commented: “I just take each race as it comes and I try to limit the mistakes. In the end, I also made some mistakes in this rally and everybody is pushing, really on the limit. All the guys are fast and you really have to pay attention, especially with the navigation here in Qatar.”

Walkner went into the final stage in a group of five riders all within a seven-minute margin, so it was always going to be a fight for the minor podium places. He finished third in the final stage, just under three minutes off the leading time after a spirited chase, especially in the second half of the stage.

Walkner: “The first 100 km was not so good and I got lost two or three times and even spent too much time trying to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. Normally it’s the best way, to push and to keep going. Then Goncalves caught me after 50 km so I knew I had lost about three minutes. I passed him again at 100 km and it was good from then on. I saw at the refueling that we were pretty close, so I knew if I made another mistake I would be off the podium. Then I went really well in the last 200 km. I pushed hard and I feel really good about this third place.”

The Qatar Rally is known to offer very challenging navigation and this proved difficult for Meo, which is only his second rally after additional corrective surgery on his wrist in December.

Meo: “I need to get the feeling back for the navigation, but the speed is already there. For sure after four days here in Qatar I had a little pain in the last stage today but that’s normal. I’m really happy with the feeling for the bike and the speed but I have to work a lot on the navigation. Now I have three months before the Atacama Rally. I want to go to Spain to work on learning the basics of the navigation because I think at the moment I want to go too fast, and I am making too many mistakes. But I am happy to get the feeling back, and the speed, and I want to show what I can do when we go to Atacama.”

Factory rider Toby Price of Australia was not with the team in Qatar. He is still recuperating after a serious leg fracture in the fourth stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally in January.  All riders in the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team compete on the KTM 450 RALLY machine.

The third round of the five-round series that make up the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship is the Atacama Rally in Chile (August 12-19, 2017).

Next Race: August 12, 2017 – Atacama Rally (CHI)

Results Stage 3 Qatar Cross-Country Rally 2017
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:01:25 h
2. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, +3:14 min
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, +6:06
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +6:18
5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +8:04
Other KTM

7. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, +31:25
8. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE), KTM, +50:31

Results Stage 4 Qatar Cross-Country Rally 2017
1. Sunderland, 4:02:39 h
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, +3:58 min
3. Walkner, +5:32
4. Goncalves, +6:05
5. Renet, +7:00 min
Other KTM
5. Mohammed Jaffer (KUW), KTM, +10:14
7. Meo, +39:14
8. Al Balooshi, +1:05:21 h
9. Adam Tomiczek (POL), KTM, +1:06:15

Results Stage 5 Qatar Cross-Country Rally 2017
1. Quintanilla, +3:46:55 h
2. Goncalves, +8 sec
3. Walkner, +2:52 min
4. Renet, +3:01
5. Sunderland, +5:00
Other KTM
7. Maciej Giemza (POL), KTM, +42:11
8. Meo, +42:36
9. Tomiczek, +51:07
10. Balooshi, +54:01

Final Standings Qatar Cross-Country Rally 2017 after 5 of 5 stages
1. Sunderland, 15:50:18 h
2. Goncalves, +7:42 min
3. Walkner, +13:11
4. Quintanilla, +15:02
5. Benavides, +17:48
Other KTM
7. Meo, +2:18:25 h
8. Balooshi, +3:34:36
9. Tomiczek, +4:33:25

Provisional Standings FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship after 2 of 5 races
1. Sunderland, 62 points
2. Goncalves, 39
3. Quintanilla, 39
4. Walkner, 38
5. Renet, 28
Other KTM
6. Meo, 25
7. Balooshi, 23
9. Tomiczek, 20
10. Giemza, 16

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