Team X-Raid’s Leonid Novitskiy starts day five, the Qasr Al Sarab stage (Thursday) of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge more as a formality having virtually sealed victory in the Auto category in a chase that has got increasingly difficult for his rivals to match. In a mirrored performance, KTM’s Marc Coma again extended his lead in what promises to be a close finish in the Moto category.
However, in a dramatic change of fortunes, quad rider Sebastian Husseini lost his position and title hopes after leading for three straight days when his Suzuki developed a serious mechanical snag mid-way through the stage.
Novitskiy’s closest rival Frenchman Laurent Rosso began the penultimate day a good two-and-a-half hours behind the Moto leader. Meanwhile, Emirati Abdul Bari bin Sugat in a Nissan Patrol shifted gears to field a late challenge for third place against Frenchman Yannick Comagnac.
Sugat and Comagnac’s podium fortunes now hinge on whose body and machine makes it through day five as temperatures look ready to climb and a wind-and- rain combo on the cards.
The day started devoid of local prominent names including the father-son combine of Yahya Al Helei and his 18-year old protégé Mansour. Fellow Emirati, Abdulla Al Heiraz also failed to start due to unresolved mechanical problems with their vehicles, despite working way into the early hours.
Second-placed Rosso played it safe going through the stage at a pace that would not harm his vehicle knowing that just finishing the day with an average time will most certainly guarantee him a podium place.
Team FJ’s David Mabbs, an early title contender said that they are determined to finish the race despite having collected huge penalty points over the previous two days. Another early UAE-based title contender, Team Saluki retired after the front-end of their vehicle was seriously damaged.
Reacting to the strong presence of Nissan among the top ten at the end of day four yesterday, Nissan Middle East FZE General Manager, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Monal Zeidan said: “I impressed by the bold performance of teams driving Nissans in this exciting and toughest stage.” The Emirati duo of Abdul Bari bin Sugat and Ali Mirza clinched the Nissan stage cup.
In the overall Moto category, overnight leader Spaniard Coma finished second to South African Sean Gaugain, and just under three minutes ahead of UAE-born Briton James West, meaning that the battle for supremacy continues to fluctuate.
“The final day is going to be very exciting for us bikers, almost a ‘photo-finish’,” enthused an exhausted but exhilarated West.
Coma takes to stage five with an overall lead of just under 10 minutes and Gaugain, who also continues to dominate the 450 category on his Honda, holds a seven-minute advantage over West. Meanwhile, Frenchman David Casteu continues to shadow his KTM rival with barely two minutes separating him from a podium finish (Thursday).
Francesco Lopez and UAE’s David McBride finished the day second and third in the 450C, respectively. The day’s results did not however upset the overall rankings though Casteu’s fourth place finish means pack leader Gaugain goes into the final stage with nearly eight more minutes added to his lead.
The Quads category witnessed a major upset when pack leader for the first three days Sebastian Husseini’s Suzuki developed serious mechanical problems eating away into the 1h 4m lead he had over nearest rival Obaid Echtibi.
At passage control (PC) three, Husseini had fallen back by over three-and-a-half hours, catapulting Echtibi to the top of the rankings. Any hopes Husseini might have had were dashed after Echtibi completed the day comfortably as the pack leader continued to struggle. Echtibi was the runner up in his category last year.
Several in the Quads category gained at the expense of Husseini’s misfortune, including local radio presenter Vicky White who continued her impressive run finishing fourth on the day on her Suzuki LTR 450, moving to second overall, followed by Colin Mercer in third in the Qasr Al Sarab stage.
Didier Tourneboeuf, Area General Manager, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara said: “We are thrilled to have the 20th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge passing by Qasr Al Sarab, Abu Dhabi‘s newly opened landmark set in one of the most magnificent landscapes within the Empty Quarter.
“The spectacular landscape and famed dunes of the Liwa Desert set the perfect backdrop for this key event and allow for spectacular viewing. No doubt the competitors are enjoying the test of their skill and the stamina of their vehicles.”
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.
- Ends -
Anu Bhatnagar +97150 7286803; Susan Furness +97150 6556126; Garima Barotrra +97150 9122543;
Leading positions on Leg 4 (Provisional):
1. Marc Coma 16h 56m 33s
2. Sean Gaugain 17h 06m 19s
3. James West 17h 14m 19s
1.Leonid Novitskiy / Andy Schulz 18h13m01s2.Laurent Rosso / Francois Borsotto 21h50m33s3.Yannick Comagnac / Jean- luc Martin 29h03m17s
Spectator Information: Stage 5
Thursday April 1 2010
•Start SS5– T 07.30h Khis Gatch•Viewpoint – W 08.15 14km east of Humeem ADNOC on Gatch Road, 1km south of SS4 finish•PC2 – F 09.50 18km east of Humeem road, turn off near White Sands shop•Viewpoint Underpass – E 10.10 Arjan Underpass south; 28km south of museum/ pyramid, Humeem Road•Viewpoint Underpass – D 10.20 Underpass 22km south of Pyramid. Stage runs along the side of east of highway•Finish SS5 – W 11.20 Access via 24 09.995 54 35.210, plus14km east – use 4WD only!•Ceremonial Finish – 16.00 Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Marina
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