Al-Attiyah edges closer to winning Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title

Published April 7th, 2016 - 03:15 GMT
Nasser Al-Attiyah
Nasser Al-Attiyah

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah continued along his relentless path toward a second cars triumph in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan today as Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla snatched a significant bikes advantage to carry into the final leg.

While Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen won the 258km ADNOC stage alongside French co-driver Michel Perin in a Mini All4Racing, Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel were second fastest in a Toyota Hilux as they increased their overall lead to 28min 08sec.

Lying second overnight and chasing a third successive Desert Challenge victory, Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov saw their hopes buried among the dunes of the Western Region of Al-Gharbia when their Mini was halted by mechanical problems.

Their misfortune promoted Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gotschalk to second place in another Mini, 7min 32sec ahead of four-time WRC runner-up Hirvonen in third.

Making his Desert Challenge debut, American Bryce Menzies is clearly benefitting from the experience of German co-driver Andreas Schulz, climbing to fourth place in a Mini.

With Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian Tom Colsoul in fifth, the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, partnered by Emirati co-driver Khalid Al-Kendi, continued to climb in his Abu Dhabi Racing Mini All4Racing to complete the top six.

Another Emirati driver, Ahmad Al-Maqoodi, moved into the top 10 alongside Obaid Al-Kitbe in their Polaris RZR to lead the buggies category. Among the day’s casualties were the all lady crew of Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt and Swede Tina Thorner whose buggy broke its gearbox.

In the battle of the bikes, French rider Pierre Alexandre Renet was the stage winner from Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo as he rose to fifth overall.

But fourth best time on the day was enough to make Quintanilla the clear favorite for victory on his Husqvarna as he took a 2min 45sec lead over this year’s Dakar Rally winner Toby Price, with the Aussie’s KTM teammate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland, just two seconds further away.

It was a splendid day for top Emirati rider Mohammed Al-Balooshi who outpaced Quintanilla, Price and Sam Sunderland, three of the world’s biggest cross country rallying talents, to maintain his fourth place overall.

Al-Attiyah, who captured the Desert Challenge title in 2008, said: “It wasn’t easy at all. We did some of this stage yesterday but most was completely new. We didn’t take risks – we don’t want to make mistakes now.  I’m really happy to finish and looking forward to tomorrow.”

Al-Rajhi said: “That was a hot stage with lots of soft sand. I saw Vasilyev stuck but other than that I was driving alone the whole stage. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s final stage, even though it’s a shorter one.”

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