Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s factory rider Pablo Quintanilla of Chile wrapped up a week of difficult navigation and challenging riding in the Sealine Rally in Qatar to finish overall second to winner Sam Sunderland. Factory teammate Pela Renet of France was fifth overall.
The rally, the second round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies Championship, was run over five stages and a total of 2452 km, 1633.49 km of which was under the clock. After the third stage Quintanilla and Sunderland were dead equal in overall times and heading for a decisive battle in the remaining two days. Then on Thursday, Quintanilla, who, as the stage winner on Wednesday was charged with opening the track, made a costly navigational error just 20 km into the race. This left him trailing Sunderland by some 18 minutes at the end of the penultimate day. He then faced an almost impossible task on Friday but he went out hard and fast and managed to take the final stage win and in the process, to trim the time deficit to the leader by half.
Quintanilla, who placed third at the Dakar Rally in January, the event considered the sport’s most challenging, had three stage wins in the Sealine, a rally that features big tracts of extremely fast off-piste riding over brutal stony terrain and which requires absolute 100% focus throughout the week.
Quintanilla: “It was an intense race that was both grueling and physical, and with a road book that was full of notes. But we took another podium and that is my great reward. I had the opportunity to fight for the rally but I admit the mistake I made yesterday cost me the win. But there are situations where you learn, and that make you better and stronger as an athlete,” he added.
It was also a good outcome and valuable experience for team rookie Pela Renet. The French rider is in his first full season with the factory team and can be satisfied with his overall fifth place finish in what is one of the more difficult rounds of the world championship series. Renet: “I’m happy about this last stage when I kept a good pace and didn’t make any navigation mistakes. I’m also pleased to reach my goal of being in the finish line of the first two rallies of the world championship and I’m now in third place in the points. Congratulations to my teammate Pablo Quintanilla for his two solid podiums (in the first two rounds), and thanks to him for his great advice.”
The two Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory riders compete on the FR 450 Rally racing bike.
Next round: Sardegna Rally Race, June 2-7, 2016 in Sardinia, Italy.
Results Sealine Rally Qatar 2016
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 4:00.07 hours
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +9:07 min
3. Helder Rodrigues (POR), Yamaha, +12:01
4. Juan Carlos Salvatierra (BOL), KTM, +15:28
5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +15:57
Overall after 5 of 5 stages
1. Sunderland, 19:14.07 hours
2. Quintanilla, +9.38 min
3. Rodrigues, + 30:46
4. Salvatierra, + 54.22
5. Renet, +1:00.27
FIM Championship Points
1. Sunderland, 53
2. Quintanilla, 43
3. Renet, 30