Quintanilla on target in Sealine Rally stage one  

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Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla was right on target when the opening stage of the Sealine Rally got underway in Qatar on Monday and emerged the stage winner by a single second margin at the end of the day. The Chilean rider crossed the line ahead of rivals Sam Sunderland and Toby Price to set the stage of another tough week’s riding in the deserts of the Gulf States. All three riders were within three seconds of each other.

 

The same three riders also took the podium places at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge two weeks ago and are expected to play leading roles in this year’s edition of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, of which the Sealine Rally is the second round.

 

With the finishing times so close, the jury debated whose task it would be to open stage two on Tuesday and finally settled on Quintanilla before signing off on the provisional results. The decision leaves the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider the task of being the first out Tuesday. It also tasks his with opening the track over terrain where navigation will play a far bigger role than it did in the soft sand of Abu Dhabi.

 

The stage got underway with a mass start over the hard, stony and very dusty terrain. Almost immediately the three leaders grouped together and rode out the stage together. The rally offers fast, off piste riding and on Monday riders also touched speeds up to 92 km/h, Quintanilla said later. In fact the terrain should suit him, who honed his skills in similar terrain in the coastal deserts of Chile.

 

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s rookie team member Pela Renet of France also came out of the tricky stage in good shape and in a strong fourth overall on the provisional timesheets. He was classified just one minute 35 behind, an indication that he continues to make a quick and effective transition from his former discipline of enduro racing into the world of rally raid.

 

In Tuesday’s stage two riders are required to travel a total distance of 504.52km, of which 345.89 km is timed. The rally continues until Friday.