Bengaluru/Doha, February 27: Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah followed up his stunning victory at the Dakar Rally with a start-to-finish success in the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally, the opening round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The Qatari and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel guided their Toyota Hilux to a winning margin of 11min 10sec to confirm a sixth victory for the driver in the eight years that the event has been a round of the FIA series.
Al Attiyah had also won the candidate event when it was called the Qatar International Baja in 2011. This win was Baumel's fifth.
"I am quite happy to win my rally in Qatar seven times. This is nice for the championship. I took it easy this morning with no risks. We did a good gap over the last four days and we just needed to finish without any problems."
Baumel added: "It's never easy in Qatar, but one of the big differences is Nasser's experience and knowledge here. He knows very quickly to choose the direction. It's a very satisfying win, especially for Nasser, Qatar and the start of our championship."
Despite pressure on some stages from Yazeed Al Rajhi and defending champion Jakub Przygonski, Al Attiyah was able to manage his pace and preserve the Toyota.
Al Rajhi and Dirk von Zitzewitz began the day 12min 33sec behind their Toyota team-mates in second place and fought off a fierce last stage challenge from Przygonski to seal second place on the podium by just 46 seconds, despite one puncture.
There was late drama when Poland's Przygonski and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul were excluded from the results.
The MINI John Cooper Works Rally crew had finished third in the provisional rankings.
Cars were checked to ensure that they conformed to FIA T1 regulations at post-event scrutineering at the Lusail Sports Arena and it came to light that the MINI was four kilogrammes underweight.
The crew were excluded from the final results and the Russian crew of Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov climbed to third in their BMW X3 CC.
The final stage of 263.8km utilised three passage controls at 14.03km, 139.13km and 203.68km.
It started east of Dukhan and headed in a northerly direction up the western Qatar coast to a PC at Musaykah before crossing the northern deserts to a final checkpoint north of Al Ghariyah, on the north-eastern coast, before passing down the eastern extremities of the country to finish north of Sidriyat Al Kheesah.