Meeke takes Qatar Baja class win, Sordo suffers penalties

Kris Meeke topped the T3 class while team-mate Dani Sordo faced a steep learning curve on his cross-country debut

Kris Meeke gets to grips with the Can-Am in Qatar.

Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Dani Sordo finished 13th on his rally raid debut, nine places behind Kris Meeke as Nasser Al-Attiyah won a shortened Qatar International Baja.

Former Citroën and Toyota WRC driver Meeke produced a strong performance to win the T3 class in a Can-Am Maverick, finishing over 20 minutes clear of Ahmed Al-Kuwari to take his maiden class victory in rally raid.

His victory came despite a double puncture on Friday’s opening stage, from which he quickly recovered to secure fourth place overall.

Saturday’s final day of the event was canceled due to strong winds that made it too unsafe to continue.

The organizer moved the official start location of the first test for the car race on visibility and safety grounds, but efforts to resume the rally proved in vain as the weather further deteriorated.

Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke

“Unfortunately day two was canceled,” Meeke said. “The wind was really strong on the far side of the country where the stage was due to start. It was like a mini sandstorm and visibility was really low.

“The organizers took a decision on safety. It’s a bit disappointing for everyone not to be able to get more kilometers. I really enjoyed day one and the two stages we did.

“I was happy we had a good rhythm. I can say it’s my first victory in off-road. I continue to learn and look forward to the next events.”

Sordo – who is contesting a part-time program in this year’s WRC, sharing an i20 N Rally1 with Oliver Solberg – had looked quick early on, going second fastest in the T3 class after the opening stage.

But his rally was beset by navigational problems and he incurred 47 minutes’ worth of time penalties for missing three successive waypoints, admitting on Friday that “we were lost a lot.”

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah action Qatar Baja

Al-Attiyah, this year’s Dakar Rally winner, took overall victory by close to four minutes of Yazeed Al-Rajhi, with Yasir Seaidan completing the top three.

“Safety is the most important thing for everyone and it was the only decision to cancel the stage today,” said Al-Attiyah.

“It would have been a good fight. I was very happy with the way the car performed yesterday and I am always so happy to win races in Qatar. This terrain is tough and the navigation is never easy.”

Second-placed Al-Rajhi agreed it was a “clever and good decision” to cancel the stage: “We could not see, so it was a good decision,” he said. “We want to do motorsport in a safe way.”

Words:Luke Barry

Photography:QMMF, Red Bull