It was another picture-perfect stage for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel.
The Toyota Hilux crew didn’t set a wheel wrong throughout the 352km-long third stage of the Qatar Cross-Country Rally, making it three stage victories in a row, and extending their lead to 09:52.
Fellow Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Alrajhi and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz set the second-fastest time on Stage 3, despite suffering a puncture in the final kilometres of the stage.
The pair elected not to change the wheel but instead pushed on to the finish, arriving on the remnants of a rim – but doing enough to remain in second place in the overall standings.
With that said, Alrajhi/Von Zitzewitz had the current holder of the Fia’s World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, Jakub Przygonski and navigator Timo Gottschalk, breathing down their necks throughout the day’s test, and now have the Mini crew just 54 seconds behind them in the overall standings.
Further back, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Bernhard Ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul set about the task of making up time, after losing more than two hours due to multiple punctures on Stage 2.
The Dutchman drove Stage 3 with impunity and posted the 5th-fastest time of the day despite losing more than 20 minutes to navigational difficulties - enough to move them up to 7th in the overall standings.
Stages 4 and 5 will both be run on Monday, 25 February. Stage 4 is a stern test of 228 km; while Stage 5 comprises only 121km.
With that said, the terrain in Qatar remains extremely tricky, and navigation is tough amongst the dunes.
This will be compounded during the upcoming stages, as some parts of the route will be used more than once, leaving tracks that further confuse the issue.
The 2019 Qatar Cross-Country Rally ends on 26th February, in the city of Doha, with a 264km long stage that can - and often does - play a pivotal role in the outcome of the race.