ABU DHABI // Dubai's Khalifa Al Mutaiwei, the former world champion, overcame mechanical trouble on the fifth and final day of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Friday to finish second overall.
Mutaiwei, who won the FIA World Cup in 2004 and was out of the sport for seven years, shared the driving responsibilities with the German Andreas Schulz.
Jean-Louis Schlesser of France won the Abu Dhabi event for a record sixth time.
Mutaiwei's X-raid Mini All4 Racing crew were delayed while replacing a viscous fan on the vehicle's engine in the morning, and he had to stop several times thereafter.
"This is probably the most demanding rally with sand dunes in the world," said Al Mutaiwei, who was sixth in the 287.32-kilometre final stage. "I am quite happy to finish second and to see that I still have the speed to match the rest after the seven-year absence. I must not forget that this is still a learning year for me and to finish second is still a pleasing achievement.
"Now I can look ahead to the new event in Qatar later this month and continue the progress I have shown on the Desert Challenge and since the Baja in Italy last month."
Schlesser and his Russian teammate Konstantin Zhilstov expanded their early lead over Al Mutaiwei in the 2012 World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The Frenchman Patrick Sireyjol finished the final stage in fourth with his SMG Buggy and that was sufficient to seal third place.
The UAE's Yayha Al Helai completed the rally, held across treacherous soft sand and in punishing temperatures, in fourth overall with his Nissan Patrol.
The next round of both the FIA and FIM World Cups will be the inaugural five-day Sealine Cross-Country Rally, organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, on April 15-21.
Obaid Al Kitbe, the Emirati quad biker, ensured a home victory by clinching his second victory in the Middle East's No 1 rally.
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