Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing´s Pablo Quintanilla on Thursday overcame niggling knee pain to finish third in the second of four days of tough desert riding at the Qatar Cross Country Rally.

In doing so, he managed to consolidate his overall fourth place with two days left to ride. French teammate Pela Renet finished fifth, eight minutes off the lead and is now in sixth overall. The rally is the second round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

Quintanilla finished just over six minutes behind the stage winner but continues to be slightly hampered by his knee pain, the result of a small crash in pre-rally testing. He had medical checks after Wednesday’s stage and was cleared complete the rally, which finishes on Saturday.

Quintanilla: “It hasn’t been the best race for me so far. I still have some pain in my knee and these stages are very physically demanding. So it’s difficult to go fast and to keep the focus all the time. But I am trying to concentrate on the navigation and I will try to continue to do my best for the two remaining days.”

Renet: “At the end of the day it wasn’t that bad. I thought I was further away from the front guy but in fact I’m only eight minutes behind today. Matthias (Walkner) caught me and it was difficult to follow him because he was really on the gas today. I rode alone for most of the stage and I’m really happy with my navigation and speed. I’m not yet at the same level as the top guys, but it’s coming, little by little. It’s really good to be putting in the kilometres, and doing the races, and getting more experience with the navigation to understand how it all works.”

Renet, who made no mistakes on Thursday said he was quite satisfied with his stage and after two days in the desert, he is 15 minutes away from the overall leader. The French rider is still accruing rally-raid experience and is competing for the first time in Qatar, a race that features some dunes, but a lot of difficult navigation, hard stony surfaces and sandy tracks. On Thursday, riders also had to contend with strong winds in addition to the demanding terrain of this rally, and the prognosis is for more of the same for Friday.

On Friday riders tackle the Abu Thaylah timed special of 337.76 km.

Results Stage Three: Sealine Special – 353.02 km 1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:01.25.00 h 2. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, + 3.14.00 min 3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, + 6.06.00 4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +6.08.00 5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, + 8.04

Overall results: 1. Sunderland 7:55.44.20 h 2. Goncalves + 6.28.90 min 3. Walkner + 9.47.60 4. Quintanilla, + 12.41.80 6. Renet, + 15.00.60