X-Raid driver, Leonid Novitskiy, rider Sean Gaugain, and last year’s quad champion, Sebastian Husseini are the early leaders of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2010, after the opening two-kilometre super special stage was flagged off by Mohammed Ben Sulayem FIA Vice President of Sport at Abu Dhabi’s Al Forsan International Sports Resort (on Saturday March 27 2010).
The trio will lead the car, bikes and quad categories into the first 286km desert special stage in the emirate’s Al Gharbia region between Al Dhafra and the finish, on the road to Liwa, near the Humeem road in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter (Sunday March 28 2010).
Several hundred spectators joined Sulayem, also the event’s chairman and the President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE). They saw 31 cars, 53 bikes, 13 quads and 3 trucks, down from an entry of 4, up against strong wind and poor visibility as they navigated the bespoke track at Al Forsan. The short opening section (2km) determines the starting order for the all-important first selective section. The event has ADTA’s full backing for the second year running.
Team X-Raid took the lead in the Super Special Stage AUTO category for the second year running, faring well for Russian Novitskiy and co-driver Andy Schulz to take the overall race following the tracks of 2009 champions, Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thorner. In 2009, Novitskiy was forced to withdraw through illness before event documentation.
Lithuania’s Benediktas Vanagas and his co-driver Saulius Jurgelenas in their OCS Oscar are placed second, three seconds faster than Qatar’s sole entry this year, Mohammed Al Mannai and co-driver, Adel Abdulla. UAE-based husband-and-wife team, Ian and Shelia Barker set the fourth fastest time and will shadow the leading three teams into the opening stage.
In the bikes 450 category, South African Gaugain finished the stage less than half a second ahead Frans Verhoeven, with Czech, Roman Krejci in third place on his Yamaha YZ 450X.
Honda’s Gecko Team rider, Gaugain finished one second off of 1m 60s. He is one of four Gecko team entries.
KTM’s Jakub Przygonski led the bikes Open category finishing ahead of Marek Swiderski, also riding a KTM LC4, while last year’s winner Marc Coma completed the top three on his KTM 690R.
Holland’s Husseini leads the quad section on his Suziki LTR 450, first in at 1m 44s. Behind him came last year’s leading Super Special Stage quad Mohammed Al Shamsi followed close at his heels by fellow Emirati, Obaid Echtibi, also with Gecko Team Honda. Al Shamsi is back in the race after a back injury in Stage 1 left him hospitalised last year.
There were 11 non-starters from an original entry list of 111.
The UAE's premier off-road event was the brainchild of Sulayem in 1991 and has been a FIA World Cup round since 1993. The rally has been managed by the ATCUAE since Sulayem took over at the helm in 2006.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has traditionally attracted a host of partners, and in 2010 these include Nissan, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Crowne Plaza Yas Island, Explorer, FedEx, Tag Heuer and Thuraya.
Leading positions after Super Special stage (2km): unofficial
1. Leonid Novitsky/Andy Schulz BMW X3 CC 1m 56.38s
2. Benediktas Vanagas/Saulius Jurgelenas OSC Oscar 03 2m 05.14s
3. Mohammed Al Mannai/Adel Abdulla Nissan Overdrive 2m 08.30s
4. Ian Barker/Sheila Barker Nissan Patrol 2m 08.55s
5. David Mabbs/Xavier Caminada Toyota FJ Cruizer 2m 11.63s
6. Dario De-Lorenzo/Aldon de-Lorenzo Isuzu DMAX 2m 13.74s
7. Majed Al Ghamdi Isuzu 2005 2m 13.95s
Bikes - overall
1. Sean Gaugain Honda CRF 450X 1m 50.59s
2. Frans Verhoeven BMW G450X Rally 1m 51.33s
3. Roman Krejci Yamaha YZ 450F 1m 52.58s
4. Jakub Przygonski KTM LC4 1m 56.65s
5. Marek Swiderski KTM LC4 1m 58.38s
6. Marc Coma KTM 690 Rally 2m 04.53s
1. Sebastain Husseini Suzuki LTR 450 1m 44.53s
2. Mohammed Al Shamsi KTM 525 XC ATV 1m 47.02s
3. Obaid Echtibi Honda TRX 700 1m 53.78s
4. Oldrich Brazina Yamaha Raptor 700R 1m 55.22s
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