X-Raid took home the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge over-all, team and T1 titles for the third consecutive year, this time with Russian Leonid Novitskiy at the wheel and German Andy Schulz by his side.
Meanwhile, Spain’s Mark Coma walked away clasping his fourth victory in five years at the season-opening round of the FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup and FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Novitskiy’s triumph in the Auto category was looking inevitable at the end of day four. However, anything can happen in the Desert Challenge and his closest contenders, FITECH’s Laurent Rosso and husband-and-wife duo, Ian and Sheila Barker collided which saw the Barker’s retire from the final leg.
Rosso continued but the incident left third place open for Emirati, Abdul Bari Bin Sugat and co-driver Ali Mirza. The Emiratis also clinched the Nissan stage trophy on day three.
Novitisky started as the hot tip following Team X-Raid’s hat-trick victory in 2008 when Tina Thorner navigated successfully for Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah, repeated last year by Thorner alongside Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit.
Bin Sugat’s late charge on the final day could have gone either way. It saw him pass Yannick Comagnac as driver acumen and Nissan endurance ensured the Emirati stood in third place.
Coma’s lead was marked from stage one although five days of the gruelling desert section saw fluctuating fortunes and ended with just minutes separating the top five.
.Francisco Lopez started the final day way down in 40th place thanks to heavy penalties, however the international rider had a good day and arrived at the finish towards the front of the field.
Briton, James West finished second overall following the misfortune of South African rider Sean Gaugain who fell just before the road crossing. The Honda Gecko rider, who sustained a broken leg and collar bone, was airlifted to hospital. David Casteu was close behind and took third place.
Quad leader for the previous four days Sebastian Husseini suffered mechanical issues in leg four and despite completing the day, Husseini picked up too many penalties to finish on top, leaving the top slot to Obaid Echtibi.
Local radio presenter and late entrant Vicky White came in second behind the Emirati and her Suzuki team mate, Colin Mercer finished third.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the season opening round of the FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup and FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, has traditionally attracted a host of partners, and in 2010 including Nissan, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Crowne Plaza Yas Island, Explorer, FedEx, Tag Heuer and Thuraya. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is the title sponsor of the event.
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