Al Qassimi, Al Helei out of luck but they did UAE proud – Sulayem
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 1 April, 2015: With one more day remaining in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED by Nissan, Nasser Al Attiyah is firmly on course for his second victory in the event while reigning world champion Marc Coma is within reach of an eighth bikes success in the UAE.
Partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in his Mini All4 Racing and looking to repeat his cars success of 2008, Al Attiyah won today’s 258km Nissan Patrol special stage from defending champion Vladimir Vasilyev to extend his overall lead to 19min 47secs from the Russian driver in another Mini.
With Dutchman Erik Van Loon another 20 minutes away in third, Britain’s Harry Hunt in a Mini, and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Poland’s Marek Dabrowski, both driving a Toyota Hilux, complete the top six.
It was a bitterly disappointing day for Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, holding fourth place overnight on his Desert Challenge debut, and fellow-Emirati driver Yahya Al Helei, winner of the first stage on Sunday.
Partnered by Portuguese co-driver Jose Marques in a Toyota Hilux, Al Qassimi retired half way through the stage with a gearbox problem. But after such a strong showing on his first appearance in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies there could be much more to come.
Al Helei, who had slipped to ninth 24 hours earlier after outpacing the factory cars in his locally-built Nissan Pick-up, rolled early on the stage and then suffered a heavy landing after 35kms. Co-driver Khalid Al Kendi was freed from the car by the medical team and evacuated by helicopter to Madinat Zayed Hospital with back injuries.
By then the reign of Portugal’s Paulo Gonçalves as Desert Challenge bikes champion had already been ended by mechanical problems. The 234kms Abu Dhabi Aviation Special Stage 5 takes the rally to its finish at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, at 4.30pm tomorrow.
“It’s very unfortunate for Sheikh Khalid who was making a strong challenge fort the top three, but that’s rallying,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers. “After winning the first stage Yahya has had a tough time, but we’ve seen two Emirati drivers fighting it out with the best in the world and doing their country proud. Khalid Al Kindi is a top-class co-driver and we hope he makes a full and quick recovery.”
Fittingly, the T2 class winner on the Nissan Patrol stage was Denis Berezovskiy from Kazakhastan in a Nissan Patrol, although the UAE’s Mansour Al Helei - son of Yahya – retained his overall production class lead in another Patrol.
There were no problems for stage winner Matthias Walkner, nor for his KTM team-mate Coma, who was second fastest on the day to extend his overall lead from Dubai-based Sam Sunderland to 11 mins 55secs.
While the UAE’s top two drivers had a day to forget, the country’s leading rider, multiple Arab moto cross champion Mohammed Al Balooshi, again underlined his ability amongst the world’s best to be sixth fastest on the stage and sixth overall. Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla, Portugal’s Ruben Faria and American Ricky Brabec, filled the other top six places.
Victory on the stage gave Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa an overall lead of 24mins 43secs from last year’s Desert Challenge quads winner and reigning world champion Rafal Sonik of Poland.
Reaching the end of the Nissan Patrol stage, Al-Attiyah said: “It was tough today, it was very hot and the sand is very hot but we did a good job. We took a lot of caution in this stage because there was a lot of big holes so we need to manage the terrain but our Mini did well and the Michelin tyres worked great in the dunes.
“I am happy to finish without any drama and safely. We don’t even see dunes like this in Dakar. The Desert Challenge is one of a kind and we are always learning.”
Vasilyev said: “We don’t want to push too hard to fight Nasser and make a mistake. The dunes are hot and sometimes we have to try and find another way around. We take care and try and stay safe, that’s our priority.”
Five-times Dakar Rally winner Coma said at the end of the stage: “I rode in a group of five and in the earlier part across the open desert we managed to get a good rhythm going. I then took it easy because of the extreme driving conditions and the heat. I’m very happy with today’s stage.”
Sunderland said: “I feel sorry for Paulo as he had a bike problem but this is life and rallying. If there’s anyone you have to lose against, you want it to be Marc. He’s a great rider so hopefully we can get a KTM 123 on the podium.”
Stage winner Walkner said: “This stage was really nice, the dunes come in a bit more rounded and were pretty fun to ride. I really enjoyed it but I tried to push a lot and am happy to have won the stage by ten seconds.”
On completing the stage Al Balooshi said: “Today was very difficult and hot and with a high heart beat it’s even hotter. Although I am 100% fitter than last year, I feel fatigued on day four and also need to improve my recovery time. I feel excited to be driving home tomorrow.”
Quads leader Abu Issa said: “It was great to pass Rafal (Sonik). Yesterday I took it easy and he beat me but today I knew I had to push. I like the Nissan stage, I’ve won it the last three years and this is definitely the hardest one.”
The 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region.
The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 12th year as the official vehicle of the event. The line-up of strategic partners includes the Ruler’s Court in the Western Region, Western Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Nissan, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al Ain Mineral Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotels - Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort, Explorer and DP World.
Provisional overall standings after Nissan Patrol SS4
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT / FRA ) Mini All4 Racing 14:33:01.0
2. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS ) Mini All4 Racing 14:52:48.0
3. Erik Van Loon / Wouter Rosegaar (NED / NED ) Mini All4 Racing 15:13:03.0
4. Harry Hunt / Andreas Schulz ( GBR / DEU) Mini All4 Racing 15:43:36.0
5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi / Timo Gotschalk ( KSA / DEU ) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16:27:01.0
6. Marek Dabrowski / Jacek Czachor ( POL / POL ) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16:42:41.0
7. Orlando Terranova / Bernardo Graue (ARG / ARG ) Mini All4 Racing 16:59:49.0
8. Adam Malysz / Rafal Marton ( POL / POL ) Mini All4 Racing 17:11:07.0
9. Ahmed Al Fahim (UAE) Polaris RZR 1000 T3 18:00:18.0
10.Ali Al Ketbi / Javid Waris ( UAE / UAE ) Nissan Patrol 18:51:32.0
1. Marc Coma (SPA) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 14:49:05.0
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:01:00.0
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:09:21.0
4. Ruben Faria (POR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:17:06.0
5. Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda CRF 450 Rally 1 J 15:23:22.0
6. Mohammad Al Balooshi (UAE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:33:53.0
7. Juan Salvatierra (BOL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:52:11.0
8. Matt Hart (AUS) KTM 450 SXF 1 16:02.20.0
9. Joe Cornejo (CHI) Suzuki RMZ 450 X 16:02:36.0
10. David McBride (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 16:06:40.0
Thursday 2nd April LEG 5
- Abu Dhabi Aviation SS 5 (234 km): start is 14 kms north of Hameem on East side or Al Dhafra road. First Moto competitor starts at 0700hrs.
- PC 2 Service and Refuel, as PC 1 Leg 1, turn off near ADNOC, at White Sands Grocery (see above). 1st Moto 0845 hrs.
· Abu Dhabi Aviation SS 5 Finish 1050 hrs. Razeen, as Start of Stage 1