2021 Rally Kazakhstan

Curtis Guise

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AJ Jones, Andrew Short and Skyler Howes are racing the Rally Kazakhstan this week. Here is a recap of stage 1 and also some photos of AJ Jones that Boyd from Method Race Wheels sent me a link to.


SERRADORI AND BRANCH WIN OPENING DESERT

SECTION AT RALLY KAZAKHSTAN

AKTAU CITY (KAZAKHSTAN): Frenchman Mathieu Serradori and Botswana’s Ross Branch set the fastest times and led the car and motorcycle categories outright after the first competitive selective section of Rally Kazakhstan between Senek and Aktau on Wednesday.

Thirty-four vehicles, 12 bikes and four quads featured on the final start list. Branch’s super special stage victory enabled the Yamaha factory rider to start the opening selective section of 280.22km from 11th position in the FIM section.

The unenviable task of opening the road fell to Argentina’s Luciano Benavides and Germany’s Sebastien Bühler. But Branch used his starting position wisely to follow the tracks of his rivals and win the stage by 2min 08sec from KTM’s Matthias Walkner.

The African duly reached the overnight halt with an advantage of 2min 11sec. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) and the Yamahas of Adrien van Beveren and Andrew Short rounded off the top five. Argentina’s Manuel Andujar extended his advantage over Russia’s Alexsandr Maksimov and Poland’s Rafal Sonik in the quad section, but Guatemala’s Rodolfo Guilliolo was badly delayed.

Branch said: “Today was a fast stage and I really enjoyed it. The speeds were really high. It was good fun. It was a long stage with a lot of notes in the road book. Now we look forward to another four days of racing.”

Second-placed Walkner added: “It was a pretty nice stage but it was very fast. It was a cool first day and now I look forward to a good rally.”

The FIA entrants followed the bikes and quads through the stage and Serradori was, perhaps, the surprise winner of the day in his South African-built Century CR6 Buggy alongside co-driver Loic Minaudier. The Frenchman carded a time of 3hr 23min 38sec to beat Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez by 1min 55sec.

“This is my first stage with my co-driver and I am very happy to win the stage,” said Serradori. “I had a good feeling with the car. The navigation was difficult today with small dunes and fast track. I am optimistic for the other stages.”

Alvarez’s Overdrive Toyota team-mates, Ronan Chabot and Yazeed Al-Rajhi, were third and fourth quickest and Sweden’s Matthias Ekström rounded off the top five in the leading X-raid MINI John Cooper Works Buggy.

Al-Rajhi admitted that one navigational error cost him dearly. The Saudi said: “We lost in one junction, the drawing was not clear. So we lost around 15 minutes. But tomorrow is a different day.”

The performance of the late morning undoubtedly came from the flying American Austin Jones, who powered his Monster Energy Can-Am to the sixth fastest time and a useful 33min 39sec lead in the FIA T4 section. His nearest rival in the unofficial classification was Germany’s Annett Fischer in her South Racing Can-Am.

The increasingly-impressive Cristina Gutierrez delivered another polished drive in her OT3 by Overdrive to set the eighth quickest time behind Denis Krotov’s MINI. The Spaniard moved into a lead of 4min 40sec over Russia’s Pavel Lebedev in the FIA T3 category after Belgian rival Guillaume de Mevius dropped over 80 minutes with technical issues in the stage.

Gutierrez said: “The stage was very difficult for navigation with a lot of tracks and sometimes it was very hard to find the way. We have a puncture too, but the car is here in one piece.”

Turbo-related issues cost former FIA World Cup champion Vladimir Vasilyev any chance of taking victory and he incurred massive time penalties for failing to finish the special.

Thursday

Tomorrow, competitors head from Aktau City on a difficult selective section that guides them into a night halt at the Kenderly resort on the Caspian Sea. The day’s stage begins 20.04km from the bivouac, runs for 279.48km and ends 2.27km from Kenderly.

This will be the first part of a Marathon stage with no service assistance and team personnel remaining in Aktau, while the competitors fend for themselves at the resort.

2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Positions after leg 1 (unofficial @ 15.40hrs):

Cars
1. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Century CR6 Buggy3hr 23min 38sec
2. Lucio Alvarez (ARG)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive3hr 25min 33sec
3. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive3hr 30min 52sec
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive3hr 35min 55sec
5. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy3hr 38min 11sec
6. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T4)3hr 38min 32sec
7. Denis Krotov (RUS)/ Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally3hr 44min 20sec
8. Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/François Cazalet (FRA) OT3 by Overdrive (FIA T3)3hr 46min 23sec
9. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3)3hr 51min 03sec
10. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Alejandro Yacopini (ARG) Toyota Hilux Overdrive3hr 56min 58sec
11. Anvar Ergashev (UZB)/Andrei Rudnitski (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3)4hr 00min 30sec
12. José-Luis Pena Campo (ESP)/Rafael Tornabell (ESP) Polaris RZR Pro XP (FIA T3)4hr 03min 55sec, etc
Bikes
1. Ross Branch (BWA) Yamaha WRF 4503hr 19min 53sec
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally3hr 22min 04sec
3. Skyler Howes (USA) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica3hr 23min 36sec
4. Adrien van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha WRF 4503hr 27min 20sec
5. Andrew Short (USA) Yamaha WRF 4503hr 27min 38sec
6. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT) Hero 450 Rally3hr 30min 13sec
7. Sam Sunderland (ARE) KTM 450 Rally3hr 30min 44sec
8. Franco Caimi (ARG) Hero 450 Rally3hr 34min 13sec
9. Daniel Sanders (AUS) KTM 450 Rally 3hr 37min 18sec
10. Sebastien Bühler (DEU) Hero 450 Rally 3hr 39min 21sec
11. Luciano Benavides (ARG) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica3hr 42min 12sec
12. Augusto Cabini (ITA) Honda CRF 450 RS5hr 43min 23sec
Quads
1. Manuel Andujar (ARG) Yamaha Raptor 7004hr 26min 11sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YMF 700R SE4hr 31min 31sec
3. Rafal Sonik (POL) Yamaha Raptor 700 4hr 44min 07sec

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Curtis Guise

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Austin Jones has a 39 minute lead after 2 stages of the Rally Kazhakstan.

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

SERRADORI AND WALKNER HOLD OUTRIGHT

LEADS AFTER DAY TWO OF RALLY KAZAKHSTAN

  • Stage wins for Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Husqvarna’s Skyler Howes
  • Austin Jones and Cristina Gutierrez continue to lead FIA T4 and T3 sections
KENDERLY (KAZAKHSTAN): Frenchman Mathieu Serradori and Austrian Matthias Walkner lead their respective car and motorcycle categories after the second selective section of Rally Kazakhstan between Aktau and Kenderly on Thursday.

Skyler Howes guided his Husqvarna to the motorcycle stage win, the American managing to beat Walkner by 70 seconds to move up to second place in the overall standings ahead of Ross Branch. Walkner now takes a 22-second advantage into the night haltBranch said: “It was very fast. I got to open up the road at the beginning. I thought I was navigating well up until the refuel point and then, shortly after that, I made a bit of a mistake and missed a marker. I took a bit of time to find the track again and Matthias (Walkner) passed me there. I stayed on the back of him and continue to learn from him.”

Yazeed Al-Rajhi claimed the fastest time in the car category in his Overdrive Toyota, the Saudi driver bouncing back from first day delays to beat Sweden’s Matthias Ekström by 47 seconds. A third fastest time on the day enabled Serradori to extend his outright lead over Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez to 6min 46sec.
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Al-Rajhi said: “Good day today and we did it well. It was a fast stage and not easy to win a lot of time. Tomorrow we open but we are ready…”

The selective section ran for 279.48km and finished just 2.27km from the Caspian resort at Kenderly where competitors will fend for themselves at the end of the first part of the Marathon stage without service assistance.

In the motorcycle category, Branch, Adrien van Beveren and Sam Sunderland rounded off the top six on the stage with Andrew Short now sandwiched between Van Beveren and Sunderland in fifth place in the overall standings.

“It was really fast,” said Sunderland. “I have never ridden a stage that fast in my life. It was quite scary sometimes. Pretty much, I was on my own for most of the day. I passed Joaquim (Rodrigues). I changed the brake pads, but the bike is okay and ready for tomorrow.”

All 12 motorcycle riders are still classified, but there were time losses of over an hour for Joaquim Rodrigues, Sebastien Bühler and Franco Caimi and additional time penalties of six hours for the latter two riders. They suffered tyre choice woes with Caimi completing the last 100km without a tyre.

With Guatemala’s Rodolfo Guilliolo sidelined after the heavy fall on Wednesday that saw him sustain a broken rib and collar bone, Manuel Andujar continued to lead the way in the quads and a second stage win saw the Argentine extend his advantage over Russia’s Alexsandr Maksimov to 7min 49sec. Poland’s Rafal Sonik is a further 9min 17sec adrift in third.

Serradori’s third place on the day in his South African-built Century CR6 Buggy means the Frenchman retains a cushion of 7min 09sec over third-placed Al-Rajhi and 10min 32sec over Ekström. “Today was okay,” said Serradori. “We did an okay job as the first car with the navigation. The track was very fast, maximum speed. I had fun today. The tyres are okay and now we face two sections of dunes and camel grass tomorrow.

Both Sebastien Halpern and Guillaume de Mevius returned to form after their day one delays, as Austin Jones and Cristina Gutierrez continued to lead the FIA T4 and T3 categories in eighth and ninth overall.

In T4, the stage win fell to Frenchman Eugenio Amos in his South Racing Can-Am, but Jones takes a cushion of 38min 43sec into the second half of the Marathon stage.De Mevius snatched the stage win in T3 after his day one electrical gremlins, but OT3-by-Overdrive team-mate Gutierrez extended her outright lead over Russia’s Pavel Lebedev to 19min 19sec. Spain’s Fernando Alvarez and José-Luis Pena Campo are third and fourth.

Friday

Tomorrow, is the second part of the Marathon stage between Kenderly and a return to Aktau City over a 330.12km selective section that heads east and inland from the coastal night halt before looping back to finish close to Senek.A road liaison then takes competitors back to Aktau City via the oil industry town of Zhanaozen.

2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Positions after leg 2 (unofficial @ 15.40hrs):

Cars
1. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Century CR6 Buggy5hr 53min 34sec
2. Lucio Alvarez (ARG)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive6hr 00min 20sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive6hr 00min 43sec
4. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy6hr 04min 06sec
5. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hr 07min 08sec
6. Denis Krotov (RUS)/ Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally6hr 18min 00sec
7. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Alejandro Yacopini (ARG) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hr 38min 09sec
8. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T4) 6hr 39min 01sec
9. Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/François Cazalet (FRA) OT3 by Overdrive (FIA T3)6hr 43min 34sec
10. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE(/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo6hr 51min 41sec
11. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3) 7hr 02min 53sec
12. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Antonio Gimeno (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3) 7hr 08min 06sec, etc
Bikes
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally6hr 02min 59sec
2. Skyler Howes (USA) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica 6hr 03min 21sec
3. Ross Branch (BWA) Yamaha WRF 4506hr 03min 58sec
4. Adrien van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha WRF 450 6hr 11min 47sec
5. Andrew Short (USA) Yamaha WRF 450 6hr 15min 38sec
6. Sam Sunderland (ARE) KTM 450 Rally 6hr 15min 43sec
7. Daniel Sanders (AUS) KTM 450 Rally 6hr 28min 17sec
8. Luciano Benavides (ARG) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica6hr 32min 28sec
9. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT) Hero 450 Rally7hr 43min 10sec
10. Augusto Cabini (ITA) Honda CRF 450 RS 9hr 20min 03sec
11. Franco Caimi (ARG) Hero 450 Rally13hr 39min 17sec
12. Sebastien Bühler (DEU) Hero 450 Rally13hr 40min 10sec
Quads
1. Manuel Andujar (ARG) Yamaha Raptor 7008hr 05min 48sec
2. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YMF 700R SE8hr 13min 37sec
3. Rafal Sonik (POL) Yamaha Raptor 700 8hr 22min 54sec

Stage 2 photos.
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Curtis Guise

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Friday, June 11th, 2021

AL-RAJHI CLOSES IN ON SERRADORI AFTER

MARATHON STAGE AT RALLY KAZAKHSTAN

  • KTM’s Sam Sunderland wins bike stage as Branch regains the lead
  • Pavel Lebedev and Eugenio Amos claim T3 and T4 stage wins
AKTAU CITY (KAZAKHSTAN): Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi continued to hunt down Frenchman Mathieu Serradori on the second half of Rally Kazakhstan’s Marathon stage between Kenderly and Senek on Friday.

The former winner of the event guided his Toyota Hilux to a second successive stage win to reduce Serradori’s overall advantage to 22 seconds heading into the final two days of the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.

Al-Rajhi was the class of the field on a stage where Argentina’s Sebastien Halpern was third quickest in a MINI John Cooper Works Buggy and Denis Krotov was fourth in another X-raid machine. The Russian duly displaced Ronan Chabot and moved up to fifth overall behind Sweden’s Matthias Ekström. Juan Cruz Yacopini lost his place in the top 10 after rolling his Overdrive Toyota in the stage.

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“We’ve completed the two Marathon days and it was a very challenging part of the race,” said Al-Rajhi’s co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz. “We won the stage yesterday, but had some trouble inside the car with alarms for fuel pressure. There was nothing we could do against it. We tried to do a small service at the Marathon, change the wheels and check all the stuff.

“Today, the car was running nicely, no real problems. We had to open today. Navigation was tricky in places and we are very happy to win the stage and get very close to the leader in the overall classification. Yazeed pushed hard and then had a smooth pace towards the end.”

2021-Rally-Kazakhstan-S3-Sam-Sunderland.jpg

Despite finishing the stage and the long liaison with no rear tyre, Ross Branch regained the advantage in the motorcycle category on a stage where Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland set the fastest time of 3hr 38min 13sec to beat France’s Adrien van Beveren by 2min 08sec and climb to fourth place. The third quickest time enabled Branch to guide his Yamaha to an overall advantage of 6min 27sec over Van Beveren, after overnight leader Matthias Walkner suffered tyre mousse issues and slipped to third.

Branch said: “What a day! The tyre went a while back, 50km before the finish of the racing stage, so I had to make the best of a bad situation. I guess you close your eyes and hope for the best! I am just happy to be here after a crazy couple of hours….”

2021-Rally-Kazakhstan-S3-Matthias-Walkner.jpg

Walkner added: “15km before the end (tyre woes), but when I passed Skyler (Howes), after km220, I already knew I would have to slow down a bit or I would not arrive. Finally, I tried to manage it. It feels super scary because you never know what is going to happen. The goal was to arrive to the finish.”

After winning stage two, Skyler Howes also suffered serious tyre mousse issues and incurred a fistful of time penalties that pushed him to the rear of the two-wheel field behind the Hero Motorsports Team Rally trio of Franco Caimi, Sebastien Bühler and Joaquim Rodrigues, who all suffered tyre and rim issues on day two.

As Rodrigues explained: “The team made a bad choice with the tyre. This is part of racing. We were able to fix the problem but we were penalized, of course, but we arrived at the finish line. Now we got six hours penalized, so it is kind of pointless to be pushing hard. We are just trying to make it to the finish now.”

Argentine Manuel Andujar inherited a massive lead of 27min 45sec in the quad category after serious problems for his closest rival Alexsandr Maksimov. An electric cable became entangled around the Russia’s wheel and tyre in the stage and, as a result, the Yamaha rider also ceded second position to the Polish former World Champion Rafal Sonik.

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Pavel Lebedev deprived Guillaume de Mevius of a second successive stage win in the FIA T3 section. The Can-Am Maverick driver beat the Belgian by 5min 05sec on the day to reduce Cristina Gutierrez’s overall advantage to 3min 34sec. Spain’s Fernando Alvarez retained third in the standings.

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Eugenio Amos carded the stage win in the FIA T4 class for the second day in his South Racing Can-Am, but Monster Energy rival Austin Jones had already built up a comfortable cushion on the opening day and now heads the category by 38 minutes.

Saturday

The penultimate leg of this year’s event includes a competitive section of 308.80 kilometres and is centred around the deserts to the north-east of Aktau and across the Mangystau region’s remote Mangyshlak Peninsula. The action starts 103.39km north of the service park and included a refuelling zone for the bikes at PC2, after 176.11km.

Cars
1. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Century CR6 Buggy9hr 24min 16sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive9hr 24min 38sec
3. Lucio Alvarez (ARG)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive9hr 40min 23sec
4. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy9hr 52min 07sec
5. Denis Krotov (RUS)/ Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally9hr 57min 33sec
6. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive10hr 25min 16sec
7. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE(/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo10hr 34min 18sec
8. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T4)10hr 46min 05sec
9. Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/François Cazalet (FRA) OT3 by Overdrive (FIA T3)11hr 02min 20sec
10. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3)11hr 05min 54sec
11. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Antonio Gimeno (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3)11hr 22min 05sec
12. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T4)11hr 24min 05sec
Bikes
1. Ross Branch (BWA) Yamaha WRF 4509hr 45min 46sec
2. Adrien van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha WRF 4509hr 52min 13sec
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally9hr 53min 08sec
4. Sam Sunderland (ARE) KTM 450 Rally 9hr 54min 01sec
5. Andrew Short (USA) Yamaha WRF 45010hr 00min 25sec
6. Luciano Benavides (ARG) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica 10hr 17min 24sec
7. Daniel Sanders (AUS) KTM 450 Rally10hr 18min 20sec
8. Augusto Cabini (ITA) Honda CRF 450 RS14hr 10min 14sec
9. Franco Caimi (ARG) Hero 450 Rally17hr 22min 02sec
10. Sebastien Bühler (DEU) Hero 450 Rally17hr 25min 18sec
11. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT) Hero 450 Rally17hr 29min 56sec
12. Skyler Howes (USA) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica21hr 03min 21sec
Quads
1. Manuel Andujar (ARG) Yamaha Raptor 70012hr 48min 01sec
2. Rafal Sonik (POL) Yamaha Raptor 70013hr 15min 46sec

AJ Jones photos:

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Curtis Guise

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Saturday, June 12th, 2021

MATHIEU SERRADORI AND ROSS BRANCH ON

TRACK FOR MAIDEN VICTORIES IN RALLY KAZAKHSTAN

  • Husqvarna’s Howes and CR6 Buggy driver Serradori claim wins on stage four
  • Yazeed Al-Rajhi breaks a drive shaft, gets stuck and loses chance of the win
  • Stage wins for Cristina Gutierrez and Eugenio Amos in T3 and T4 sections
AKTAU CITY (KAZAKHSTAN): Frenchman Mathieu Serradori and Botswana’s Ross Branch are firmly on track to record maiden victories in the car and motorcycle categories at Rally Kazakhstan, after the penultimate selective section of 308.80 kilometres that looped through the remote Mangyshlak Peninsula, north-east of Aktau, on Saturday.

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With one stage to go before the finish of the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and the first phase of the FIM Cross-Country Rally World Cup, Serradori and French navigator Loic Minaudier now have an overnight lead of 22min 53sec in the car section in their Century CR6 Buggy. Branch heads Austria’s Matthias Walkner by 4min 05sec on two wheels.

“First position today and I am very happy, but it was a fast track and the dunes were extremely difficult,” said Serradori. “I had a good feeling in the car and Loic did a good job.”

Serradori was coming under increasing pressure from Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi over the last two days and the gap was just 22 seconds at the start of the day. The Saudi pushed his Toyota Hilux hard through the opening kilometres, was fastest at the early splits and had taken a virtual overall lead of the rally when he sustained a front-right drive shaft breakage and got stuck in soft sand after the onset of rain on the day’s stage.

While Yazeed and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz were attempting to dig themselves free, Sebastien Halpern’s MINI came over the dune and collided with them. The Saudi’s problems lifted Overdrive Racing team-mate Lucio Alvarez back into second place, although Al-Rajhi did manage to get going again with the loss of 58 minutes and still holds fourth overall. Halpern lost 40 or so minutes in his own right but was already out of contention for the podium.

“Today was very good and nice to drive, sandy tracks and dunes,” said second-placed Alvarez. “We had good navigation, some little mistakes, but we finish P2. I am happy.”

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Despite the wet and tricky conditions and a delay in the dunes late on, Denis Krotov displaced X-raid MINI team-mate Matthias Ekström and moved up to third overall and the Swedish motor sporting all-rounder slipped to fifth after Al-Rajhi’s recovery. Frenchman Ronan Chabot was sixth, but Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal hit trouble and lost his place inside the top 10.

Despite being out of contention for the overall win after his tyre mousse issues, American rider Skyler Howes scaled the top step of the day’s podium again with the fastest time of 3hr 26min 48sec on his Husqvarna.

His success made little difference to the overall leader board, where Branch was fourth quickest and may have done enough to hold on for the outright victory on the final day. He was beaten by Matthias Walkner and Daniel Sanders and takes a lead of 4min 05sec over Walkner into the final morning, the African having the advantage of being able to follow the Austrian through the closing stage.

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Walkner said: “It was really fast again. I gave it my all but the pace is so high. It is crazy and 60-70% of the stage it was raining. I tried to make no mistakes. You can see the line quite good so the gaps are not that big.”

Third on the day, Sanders said: “We started off on some fast tracks and we could see some clouds coming over and we had a bit of rain from 30km in to all the way to the finish line. It was hard to see at some times when we were travelling at 140-150 (km/h) and the rain is coming through the goggles. After the refuel, we hit some sand dunes and made some time back after losing some time in the morning.”

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Opening the way proved costly for Sam Sunderland and the Briton was seventh on the day, dropped nearly 12 minutes to the leaders, and held fourth in the overall standings behind Adrien van Beveren. All 12 riders completed the leg but Andrew Short survived a small crash that damaged his navigational tower.

Alexsandr Maksimov recovered well from the 90-minute time loss he sustained on the third stage removing wire fencing that had become entangled in his rear wheel and crushed his rivals on the day in the quad category. But the damage had already been done for the Russian and Argentina’s Manuel Andujar will take a lead of 26min 25sec over Poland’s Rafal Sonik into the final day.

Cristina Gutierrez guided her OT3-by-Overdrive to what could be a decisive stage-winning performance to consolidate her lead in the FIA T3 section. The Spaniard and French co-driver François Cazalet hold a comfortable lead of 39min 57sec over Pavel Lebedev, after the Russian hit trouble on the day’s stage and ceded 36 minutes to the OT3 crew. Fernando Alvarez lost third place to fellow Spaniard José-Luis Pena Campo.

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In the FIA T4 category, Eugenio Amos earned his third stage win of the campaign and beat Austin Jones by 4min 10sec, but the American has managed his pace to perfection after a superb start to the rally and the Monster Energy Can-Am driver holds a lead of 34 minutes after four stages. Dutchman Kees Koolen retained third in another South Racing-built Can-Am.

Sunday

The scenic final stage of 267.02km runs along the Caspian shoreline to the north of Aktau City and loops in an anti-clockwise direction around the western tip of the peninsula.

2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Positions after leg 4 (unofficial @ 16.05hrs):
Cars
1. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Century CR6 Buggy12hr 58min 27sec
2. Lucio Alvarez (ARG)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive13hr 21min 20sec
3. Denis Krotov (RUS)/ Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Rally13hr 48min 38sec
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 13hr 56min 55sec
5. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy14hr 00min 25sec
6. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive14hr 23min 41sec
7. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T4)14hr 49min 58sec
8. Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/François Cazalet (FRA) OT3 by Overdrive (FIA T3)15hr 09min 54sec
9. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T4)15hr 23min 58sec
10. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3)15hr 49min 51sec
11. José-Luis Pena Campo (ESP)/Rafael Tornabell (ESP) Polaris RZR Pro XP (FIA T3)16hr 38min 49sec
12. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Antonio Gimeno (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (FIA T3)16hr 45min 52sec, etc
Bikes
1. Ross Branch (BWA) Yamaha WRF 45013hr 18min 04sec
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally 13hr 22min 09sec
3. Adrien van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha WRF 45013hr 27min 28sec
4. Sam Sunderland (ARE) KTM 450 Rally 13hr 32min 47sec
5. Andrew Short (USA) Yamaha WRF 45013hr 47min 12sec
6. Daniel Sanders (AUS) KTM 450 Rally13hr 49min 14sec
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica 13hr 59min 13sec
8. Augusto Cabini (ITA) Honda CRF 450 RS19hr 03min 40sec
9. Franco Caimi (ARG) Hero 450 Rally21hr 01min 34sec
10. Sebastien Bühler (DEU) Hero 450 Rally 21hr 04min 34sec
11. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT) Hero 450 Rally 21hr 05min 19sec
12. Skyler Howes (USA) Husqvarna HQV 450 Rally Replica24hr 30min 09sec
Quads
1. Manuel Andujar (ARG) Yamaha Raptor 70017hr 58min 52sec
2. Rafal Sonik (POL) Yamaha Raptor 70018hr 25min 17sec
3. Aleksandr Maksimov (RUS) Yamaha YMF 700R SE19hr 33min 43sec

AJ Jones photos:

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