Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory riders Pablo Quintanilla and Pela Renet rode to a fourth and a fifth place in the Qatar Cross Country Rally on Wednesday in the first of four tough desert stages in the second round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship. Quintanilla is the reigning world champion.

The rally began on Tuesday with an opening stage, a 5km-prologue that defined the starting order. After Wednesday’s stage Quintanilla is 12.5 minutes off the lead but he was hampered by pain in his left knee, the result of a small crash while testing for this event.

Quintanilla: “It was a difficult start for me because after my small crash in testing it was really painful to ride like this. But today I was in front for almost all the timed special. I started in eighth and I caught the front group after 90 km. I tried to do good navigation and I felt really confident with that, but not so much on the bike because of the pain in my knee. But I’ve been to the hospital with the team manager to check everything, and it seems to be okay. So I can keep riding and it’s good to be able to continue to race this week.”

Renet: “I finished fifth in the stage and I am 13 minutes behind the leader. I had a good pace until the refuelling stop at the 150 km mark, but then I made some stupid navigation mistakes during the last 100 kilometres. That cost me a better place on the overall ranking. The road books here in Qatar have a lot of notes, we need to stay really focused.”

Quintanilla is currently second in the points in the 2017 world championship after the opening round two weeks ago, the Desert Challenge in Abu Dhabi, trailing Sunderland by eight points.

Riders tackle another 350 km in the second desert stage on Thursday. The rally, the second in the five-round series for 2017 finishes on Saturday.

Results Stage Two: Rawdat Rashed Timed Special – 334.08 km 1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:43.21.00 h 2. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, + 9.25.00 min 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, + 10.48.00 4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, + 12:34.00 5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, + 13.12.00

Overall 1. Sunderland, 3:48.01.20 h 2. Goncalves, + 9.32.90 min 3. Benavides, + 10.54.40 4. Quintanilla, + 12.53.80 5. Renet, + 13.14.60