Györ, Hungary: Dubai’s Khalifa Al Mutaiwe’e and German co-driver Andreas Schulz were on track to take the lead in the 2012 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies after three timed special stages of the Baja Hungary on Saturday.
The Fazza Rally Team driver, who is second in the overall standings, held an unofficial seventh overall after the third stage of the event and, more importantly, was well clear of arch title rival Jean-Louis Schlesser of France, who had lost considerable time on the first of the morning’s special stages. He was 5 minutes 26 seconds behind the overall leader, Russian Vladimir Vasilyev.
Al Mutaiwe’e, driving an X-raid Mini All4 Racing, held second after the timed super special stage on Friday evening, slipped to eighth after the first special on Saturday and climbed to seventh after the next stage.
“It is very hot here this weekend, more like Egypt than Hungary,” admitted Al Mutaiwe’e, who has a different approach to his rallying this week. “I am attacking here. I feel more confident with every kilometre I do. I want to finish in first place.
“I have a different car here to the one I used in Spain. I am driving the car that was used by Stéphane Peterhansel and it has more upgrades and modifications. But my rival Jean-Louis Schlesser has also changed the car he is driving here. Maybe the terrain did not suit his Buggy, so he is driving an OSC Oscar 03 here.”
Al Mutaiwe’e set the second fastest time through Friday evening’s shortened super special stage at Ifari Park in Györ. The Fazza Rally Team star recorded a time of 2min 09sec on the three-kilometre stage, which was just three seconds slower than the time set by former Russian winner Boris Gadasin.
Fellow Russian Vladimir Vasilyev was third – a further two seconds adrift – and Al Mutaiwe’e’s title rival Schlesser was 10th, 13 seconds behind the Mini driver.
Crews tackled the first of four of Saturday’s timed stages at 10.45am (local time). The 51.80km test ran from Rába Híd to Pápoc over remote rural terrain and Gadasin set the target time of 33 minutes 41 seconds in his G-Force Proto. Al Mutaiwe’e recorded a time of 34 minutes 37 seconds and slipped 59 seconds behind the Russian.
Vasilyev set the quickest time of 31 minutes 31 seconds to move into the outright lead heading into the second 71.67km special stage. Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and Hungarian Erik Korda also ran faster that the Dubai driver, who eventually slipped to eighth in the rankings. Rival Schlesser lost 13 minutes on the stage and fell out of contention.
It was crucial that Al Mutaiwe’e responded on the second stage of the day. Vasilyev set the quickest time of 47 minutes 39 seconds to edge into an outright lead of 2 minutes 51 seconds over Gadasin, with Zapletal in third and Hungary’s Karoly Fazekas in fourth. Al Mutaiwe’e recorded a time of 50 minutes 01 second to stay in contention for the top five heading into a repeat of the morning’s stages on Saturday afternoon.
Action draws to a close on Sunday with a run through a 52.32km stage and a third pass through the 71.67km stage between Mihalyi and Vitnyed. The podium finish will take place in Györ later that afternoon.
1. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Vitaliy Yevtyekhov (RUS) G-Force Proto 1hr 21min 21sec
2. Borus Gadasin (RUS)/Alexey Kuzmich (RUS) G-Force Proto 1hr 24min 12sec
3. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciek Marton (POL) H3 Evo 1hr 24min 54sec
4. Karoly Fazekas (HUN)/Albert Horn (HUN) BMW X5 1hr 25min 21sec
5. Costel Casuneanu (ROM)/Maurillo Zani (ITA) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer 1hr 25min 26sec
6. Erik Korda (HUN)/Csaba Fabian (HUN) Toyota Hilux 1hr 26min 42sec
7. Khalifa Al Mutaiwe’e (UAE)/Andreas Schulz (GER) Mini All4 Racing 1hr 26min 47sec
8. Andrei Cherednikov (KAZ)/Alexandr Moroz (KAZ) G-Force Proto 1hr 27min 43sec
9. Ilya Kusnetsov (RUS)/Roman Elagin (RUS) Mitsubishi MPR13 1hr 28min 58sec