Qatar's Al-Attiyah 'very happy' with Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title
Nasser Al Attiyah
Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah cruised to his second victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Thursday, as Australian Toby Price produced a great ride on the final leg to claim the bikes title at his first attempt.
Partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Al Attiyah was fastest on the 234km Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage and reached the finish at Yas Marina Circuit holding an emphatic winning margin of 32 minutes and 13 seconds over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and German Timo Gotschalk in a Mini All4Racing.
Six minutes further away in another Mini, Finn Mikko Hirvonen marked his Desert Challenge debut with third place alongside French co-driver Michel Perin in the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. The top six was completed by American Bryce Menzies on his first appearance in the event, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, and Frenchman Mathieu Serradori, who climbed past the UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi in an Abu Dhabi Racing Mini on the final day.
The battle to become the new bikes champion had been a fascinating one as the rally swept through the dunes and desert plains of the Western Region of Al Gharbia, with Price and Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla each taking the lead twice, and Sam Sunderland always close at hand.
Price, this year’s Dakar Rally winner, made his decisive move on the concluding Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage, winning it from KTM teammate Sunderland to take victory by 2 mins 11 secs from the Dubai-based rider, with Quintanilla another 1 min 12 secs away on his Husqvarna. The challenge to compete against three of the world’s top factory team riders brought the best out of the UAE’s Mohammad Al Baloushi, who rode faultlessly to finish fourth on his privately entered KTM.
Emirati Ahmad Al Maqoudi, with co-driver Obaid Al Kitbe, thought they had won the buggies category in a Polaris, but following a post-event scrutineering, Al Maqoudi was excluded from the rally by the FIA stewards for technical irregularities involving his Polaris buggy’s petrol tank housing and main roll bar. As a result, Poland’s Aron Domzala and co-driver Szymon Gospodarczyk were declared the winners of the T3 buggies class in their Polaris RZR.
Qatar’s Adel Hussain Abdullah with Egyptian Hakam Mohammad Rabeia in a Nissan Patrol captured the T2 production class title. Poland’s reigning FIM World champion Rafal Sonik won the quads category.
“We have had another classic five days of desert rallying at its best,” said Mohammad Bin Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATC).
“This event is always very challenging, but fair, and we’re very happy once again to have seen so many of the top drivers and riders in the world sharing the stage here with competitors from the UAE and other Arab countries.”
Al Attiyah, who secured his first Desert Challenge title in 2008, wore a broad smile after a dominant display which saw him win four out of the five desert stages. He said: “I’m so happy to win the Desert Challenge again. I really enjoyed driving the Toyota. We never made a mistake, never got stuck. It was a great team effort to win this rally.”
Leading positions (Provisional)
1. Nasser Al Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT / FRA) Toyota Hilux 17:14.49
2. Yazeed Al Rajhi / Timo Gotschalk (KSA / DEU) Mini All4 Racing 17:47.02
3. Mikko Hirvonen / Michel Perin (FIN / FRA) Mini All4 Racing 17:53.02
4. Bryce Menzies / Andreas Schulz (USA / DEU) Mini All4 Racing 17:59.04
5. Jakub Przygonski / Tom Colsoul (POL / BEL) Mini All4 Racing 18:06.33
6. Mathieu Serradori / Didier Haquette (FRA / FAR) Buggy 18:39.00
7. Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi / Khalid Al Kendi (ARE /ARE) Mini All4 Racing 18:56.01
8. Marek Dabrowski / Jacek Czachor (POL / POL) 19:52.40
9. Yuriy Sazonov / Dmytro Tsyro (KAZ / RUS) 20:56.29
1. Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 Rally Factory 1 18:18.24
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Factory 1 18:20.35
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) Husqvarna 450 Rally Factory 1 18:21.47
4. Mohammad Al Baloushi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 18:56.38
5. Pierre Alexandre Renet (FRA) 18:57.02
6. Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Factory 1/3 19:19.25
7. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL) 19:19.28
8. Jakub Piatek (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1/4 19:27.57
9. David McBride (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 19:37.17
10. David Thomas (GBR) Husqvarna 450 Rally Replica 1 20:51.22
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