Winner Nasser Al Attiyah disqualified from Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Winner Nasser Al Attiyah disqualified from Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
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Published April 3rd, 2015 - 22:54 GMT via

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Nasser Al Attiyah
Nasser Al Attiyah

Winner Nasser Al Attiyah was sensationally disqualified from the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan on Thursday, hours after being gifted his second title by a heavy sandstorm.

The Qatari was declared the champion early in the day after the 234km Abu Dhabi Aviation Special Stage 5 had to be cancelled because of poor visibility, which was down to less than 100 metres in places and meant that air support for the rally was not possible.

But, in the early evening, organisers the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) announced that Al Attiyah had been excluded for a suspension travel irregularity following post-event scrutineering by the FIA. Russia’s defending champion Vladimir Vasilyev, partnered by Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Mini, was subsequently declared the winner in the cars category.

In other categories, reigning world champion Marc Coma recorded his eighth bikes win and there was a double success for the UAE, with Ahmad Al Fahim taking the T3 buggies title by finishing ninth overall in a Polaris and fellow Emirati Mansour Al Helei capturing the T2 production class cars title by finishing 13th in his Nissan Patrol.

Qatar’s Mohammad Abu Eisa won the Desert Challenge quads crown for the second time in three years on a Yamaha Raptor.

Coma said: “I am very happy with the result. It was a great rally and I made no mistakes. I know how tough the race is from previous years, so we made some good tactical decisions as a team and it paid off. The bike was great and I had no problems. It is another victory for the team and for me it’s my eighth win here so I am delighted and very proud.”

Quads winner Eisa was delighted to have triumphed on ‘home’ territory and on his favourite terrain of sand.

He added: “The first two days I pushed and then cruised through the other stages. I was pleased to win my favourite, the Nissan stage. It was a shame that today was cancelled as I was looking forward to the hype of arriving into Abu Dhabi.”

The 89 surviving competitors — 42 cars and buggies and 47 bikes and quads — which were due to complete Thursday’s stage, instead travelled on a road section to Yas Marina Circuit, where the rally’s official podium finish was also later cancelled because of the adverse weather.

“It would have been very dangerous for the competitors to go ahead with the stage and there was no visibility to get the Abu Dhabi Aviation helicopters into the air to provide vital safety cover,” said Mohammad Bin Sulayem, President of the ATCUAE.

“My decision to cancel the stage was based purely on competitor safety. We are trusted by all competitors to look after them and the decision was supported by all the drivers and riders and the teams.

“We have had four great days of desert rallying at its best, which has added to the history of the Desert Challenge and again showed it to be a unique test for competitors and rally machinery. We’re already looking forward to making next year’s event even better.”

The 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, is the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies for cars and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

Al Attiyah, partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in his Mini All4 Racing, had previously won the cars category in 2008. He was 19 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of Vasilyevin before his disqualification.

In the battle of the bikes, Coma won by 11 min 55sec from his KTM teammate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland, while the UAE’s multiple Arab motocross champion Mohammad Al Beloushi finished sixth overall in a world-class field.

Eisa captured the quads title by 24min 43sec from last year’s Desert Challenge quads winner and reigning world champion Rafal Sonik of Poland.

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