QASR AL SARAB 4 April 2017: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah found himself alongside Austrian KTM Red Bull Factory team rider Matthias Walkner at the top of the leader board of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, after the second 289.39km Nissan stage of the event through the Rub Al Khali on Monday.
The Toyota driver claimed the fastest time on the day’s stage, held in punishing heat across the mighty dunes of the UAE. Al Attiyah’s stage win meant he extended his lead over Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi to 23min 03sec heading into the night halt at Qasr Al Sarab.
“Today was a good day for us. It was not an easy stage. The stage is called Nissan. It is very difficult and hard. We just need to take care. To win by a big gap and have a big lead from Al Qassimi is good,” said Al Attiyah.
Sam Sunderland’s starting position meant that the overnight leader was hardly going to win the day’s stage and the Dakar champion ceded time to his rivals in the motorcycle category. Husqvarna’s Pierre Alexandre Renet began the day fifth on the road and pressed on to take the stage win from Monster Energy Honda’s Paolo Gonçalves.
New overnight leader Walkner was third quickest. “I did not know that I was leading),” said the Austrian after the finish. “Saying that, tomorrow they take the gap back. Hopefully I can finish on the podium. Tomorrow, the guys will take three or six minutes and the lead is changing again. It has been a good two days and I feel more confident riding in the dunes. I get into it and I enjoyed it.”
Sunderland said: “You always lose time when you start in front. I opened all the way for nearly 300km (the stage) and only Pablo (Gonçalves) and Matthias physically caught me. Of all the riders here, that meant it was a good day. This race is strange with the strategy, you know. You kind of swap times each day. Tomorrow I start back and it will be the opposite. You just have to take each day as it comes. It’s been really hot the past few days and it’s really unpredictable out there. The bike is good. I am happy. The team have done a great job.”
Stage winner Renet was upbeat: “Yes, really happy. Today I start five, so it’s easier for me because I have the line and the tracks. It’s good to have a win at this rally. The heat is really high and, with the sun, you do not see so easy. I guess it is the same for everyone.”
Al Attiyah began the gruelling loop stage with a cushion of 11in 35.1sec over Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and the Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux driver pressed home his advantage from the front for the second day in the cars. Czech driver Martin Prokop produced another useful performance in the Jipocar Ford F-150 Evo to set the fourth quickest time behind Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa and the former WRC star leapt into third place in the overall rankings. Russian Vladimir Vasilyev got stuck in the dunes and slipped to fifth.
Poland’s Kamil Wisniewski maintained his lead in the quads from a charging group, even though the day’s stage win went to the Dutchman Kees Koolen on a Barren Racer One 690. Wisniewski now leads the class by 5min 42.8sec from Kuwait’s Fahad Al-Musallam.
“It’s been another very difficult day at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with heat and fatigue again taking their toll,” said event founder and ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem. “It’s pleasing to see the local drivers showing through and using their experience and knowledge of the dunes to carve their path towards good results.”
Monday – as it happened
Sunderland and Al Attiyah led their respective motorcycle and car rivals into the second selective of 289.39km that featured considerable sections through the notorious dunes of the Rub Al Khali. Further down the field, Poland’s quad rider Rafal Sonik was hoping to recover from the persistent fuel issues that had plagued his Honda after the refuelling on Sunday and Qatar’s Adel Abdulla was given back the substantial time he had lost at the scene of the accident involving the injured Andrey Chipenko and slotted into fourth in T2 with his Nissan Patrol.
As the leading group of riders remained together through the first two passage controls, Khalid Al Falaisi was forced to retire his Honda with mechanical trouble and wait for the sweep truck to collect it. Renet benefited from his starting position to take the virtual bike lead at PC2, while Sunderland dropped nine minutes to his rivals. Riders outside the top 15 had begun the stage in a pair of spectacular mass starts.
Al Attiyah extended his advantage over Al-Qassimi by just under three minutes through PC1 and to a little under six at PC2, as the leading group of riders began the final crossing of the dunes after a third checkpoint at Arada. Renet held on to snatch the stage win, but Walkner grabbed the overall lead and Al-Attiyah tightened his grip on the car section to 23min 03.1sec.
The dunes played havoc with competitors running down the order. Both Khalid Al Jafla and Patrice Garrouste crashed, riders Elio Aglioni and Jan Zatko were retrieved suffering from possible dehydration and Vasilyev and Zapletal both got stuck in the dunes, the Russian enduring a sandy delay at the same point as quad rider Camelia Liparoti was also festooned in the sand.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), competitors tackle the second of three loop stages around the southernmost extremities of the UAE. The 288.73km special starts at the desert outpost of Tharwaniya off the road to Mezaira’a and winds its way through the towering dune complexes of the Rub Al Khali to finish 19km north of Hameem. The route passes the famed Moreeb Hill before heading south and running along the frontier with Saudi Arabia. It then returns to the bivouac for a refuelling stop for the bikes at PC1.
2017 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – positions on leg 2 (Monday – unofficial @ 15.50hrs):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hr 02min 34sec
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (ARE) Peugeot 3008 DKR 4hr 14min 02sec
3. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 21min 40sec
4. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 4hr 24min 22sec
5. Ahmed Al-Maqoodi (ARE)/Obaid Al-Kitbi (ARE) Polaris RZR 1000 4hr 47min 29sec
1. Pierre Alexander Renet (FRA) Husqvarna 450 Rally 4hr 05min 05.4sec
2. Paolo Gonçalves (PRT) Honda 450 CRF Rally 4hr 07min 22.8sec
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally Factory 4hr 08min 53.0sec
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna 450 Rally 4hr 11min 48.6sec
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda 450 CRF Rally 4hr 12min 36.3sec
6. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Factory 4hr 14min 48.1sec
1. Kees Koolen (NED) Barren Racer One 690 4hr 40min 42sec
2. Fahad Al-Musallam (KUW) Yamaha Raptor 700R 5hr 00min 54sec
3. Kamil Wisniewski (POL) Yamaha Raptor 700 R 5hr 10min 17sec
4. Rodolfo Schippers (GUA) Yamaha Raptor 700 R 5hr 19min 07sec
5. Camelia Liparoti (ITA) Yamaha Raptor 700 R 5hr 39min 32sec
6. Maxim Antimirov (KAZ) Honda TRX 700 5hr 39min 33sec
7. Khalifa Al-Raeesi (ARE) Honda TRX 700 6hr 01min 44sec
2017 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – positions after Leg 2 (Monday – unofficial @ 15.50hrs):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hr 18min 37.7sec
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (ARE) Peugeot 3008 DKR 7hr 41min 40.8sec
3. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford F-150 Evo 8hr 15min 42.1sec
4. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 8hr 20min 53.7sec
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 8hr 34min 54.6sec
6. Stephan Schott (DEU)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 9hr 04min 23.2sec
7. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (CZE) Hummer H3 Evo III 9hr 22min 29.2sec
8. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Rafael Tornabell (ESP) Buggy 2WD 9hr 50min 26.7sec
9. Yayha Al-Helai (ARE)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Pick-Up 9hr 52min 12.6sec
10. Ahmed Al-Maqoodi (ARE)/Obaid Al-Kitbi (ARE) Polaris RZR 1000 9hr 52min 39.6sec
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally Factory 7hr 41min 09.6sec
2. Paolo Gonçalves (PRT) Honda 450 CRF Rally 7hr 41min 41.8sec
3. Pierre Alexander Renet (FRA) Husqvarna 450 Rally 7hr 42min 54.3sec
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna 450 Rally 7hr 43min 03.2sec
5. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Factory 7hr 45min 57.5sec
6. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda 450 CRF Rally 7hr 53min 07.5sec
7. Antoine Meo (FRA) KTM 450 Rally Factory 8hr 21min 05.1sec
8. Mohammed Jaffar (KUW) KTM 450 Rally Replica 8hr 21min 19.5sec
9. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 8hr 33min 38.7sec
10. David McBride (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 9hr 20min 30.6sec
1. Kamil Wisniewski (POL) Yamaha Raptor 700 R 9hr 56min 08.4sec
2. Fahad Al-Musallam (KUW) Yamaha Raptor 700R 10hr 01min 51.2sec
3. Rodolfo Schippers (GUA) Yamaha Raptor 700 R 10hr 05min 52.9sec
4. Camelia Liparoti (ITA) Yamaha Raptor 700 R 10hr 34min 54.4sec
5. Maxim Antimirov (KAZ) Honda TRX 700 10hr 37min 05.4sec
6. Khalifa Al-Raeesi (ARE) Honda TRX 700 10hr 56min 15.8sec
For live timing and tracking during the race:
Spectator vantage points
Tuesday, April 4 – SS3 (Al-Ain Water)
Start SS3 – 07.00hrs N23 04.937 E53 59.5592 Tharwaniyah
Viewpoint – 07.30hrs N22 58.043 E53 46.293 Moreeb, access via Maiira’a
PC1 – 09.40hrs N22 53.232 E54 20.731 Bike refuel at the bivouac.
PC3 – 10.20hrs N23 16.678 E54 22.568 Close to road, 37km north of Hameem.
Finish SS3 – 11.40hrs N23 07.516 E54 19.016 19km north of Hameem.
Bivouac – 12.05hrs N23 53.057 E54 20.702 Qasr Al Sarab
– By Sheena Amos