This is why the two champions wanted to say goodbye to the pre-season with a victory that would raise their own spirits while eroding those of their rival.
The Qatari driver was hoping to seal his third triumph after the Andalusian Rally (which replaced the Rally of Morocco) and last week’s Baja Hail I, thus conquering the FIA World Cup Cross Country Bajas.
For his part, the Spaniard was hoping to start his Christmas holidays with a victory in Baja Hail II that would prevent his adversary from achieving his triumph.
Another great duel Al Attiyah vs Sainz
Just four days before the Baja Hail II, the last of the pre-Dakar encounters, the two drivers had come head-to-head for the Baja Hail I (December 11). At that initial battle, Al Attiyah and Sainz chased each other for over 200 kilometres in a wheel-to-wheel showdown.
The hair-raising battle included continuous exchanges of position and some spectacular manoeuvres, more common of asphalt races than desert rallies. But that was only a test of what was still to come.
As a result of the penalties, the Spaniard Carlos Sainz was granted the victory by just six seconds. On top of that, Al Attiyah has also lost the FIA Baja World Cup title, which the win would have granted him.
Sainz opens the track and Al Attiyah flies
Sainz arrived at the second and final stage (180 kilometres) of the Hail II as leader with an advantage of just over two minutes. It was precisely his triumph at the previous stage on Tuesday that put him in the disadvantage position of track opener. He was not able to defend his advantage.
As the day went by, Carlos Sainz lagged further and further behind until he was out of the victory race. Al Attiyah’s drive, on the contrary, was above and beyond, especially in the final stage of the day.
Since Al Attiyah had started the day three minutes after Sainz, both rivals crossed the finishing line at almost the same time, evoking last Friday’s duel… and giving a taste of what is to come in less than three weeks at the Dakar Rally.
Nasser won the last special with a time of 1 hour 17 minutes and 29 seconds, 3:14 less than the Spaniard who was fourth. Carlos Sainz also had to witness Peterhansel, his teammate at Mini, and Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Hilux), slip second and third on Wednesday’s standings.
The Qatari had won both the Haal II and the FIA World Cup Cross Country Bajas before the sanctions came and robbed him of both.
Images of Carlos Sainz: X-Raid Team.