x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Champions take control at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Experience showed on Leg Three of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with two defending champions enjoying strong performances among the towering dunes.

Motocross rider Giovanni Ronzoni is overcome with emotion as he realises he will not be able to complete the third stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in the Empty Quarter.
Motocross rider Giovanni Ronzoni is overcome with emotion as he realises he will not be able to complete the third stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in the Empty Quarter.

Experience showed on Leg Three of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge yesterday, with two defending champions enjoying strong performances among the towering dunes.

Marc Coma increased his overall lead in the bikes category while Leonid Novitskiy, the Russian driver, gained his first stage win of the week, which catapulted him to the top of the car standings.

Meanwhile, the UAE's Mohammed Al Shamsi triumphed in the quads category for a second day in a row, placing him even further ahead of the nearest competitor.

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Coma, of the KTM Factory Team, put on a masterclass of controlled riding as he navigated through a tightly packed field for much of the day.

His combined time of 4hrs 4mins 46secs over the two stages of yesterday's leg was enough to earn him first place and strengthen his position at the top of the bike standings.

Helder Rodrigues, in second place overall, finished the day more than two minutes behind the Spaniard, while Jakub Przygonski retained his position in third for another day.

In the cars category, the Team X-Raid pair of Novitskiy and Stephane Peterhansel, battled hard during the first stage, with Peterhansel's Mini All4 Racing narrowly beating Novitskiy's BMW X3.

But it all went wrong for the Frenchman during the closing run of the second stage when he got stuck in the deep sand, leaving the Russian to overtake for a leg win.

The Mini driver eventually finished in third place, leaving him second in the overall standings, five minutes behind his teammate.

Bringing up third place overall is Jean-Louis Schlesser, the 62-year-old, in his Dune Buggy.

Al Shamsi has enjoyed a good week in the Desert Challenge, and picked up a convincing victory in the quads category, finishing ahead of the pack in both stages of the Qasr Al Sarab leg.

A number of cars and bikes were forced out of the event yesterday as machinery broke and failed tackling the dunes.

Al Shamsi finished in 4hrs 40mins 38secs, and is now sitting comfortably at the top of the overall quads standings, ahead of countryman Atif al Zarouni.

Today's penultimate day of the event sees the drivers and riders tackle the Nissan stage, which runs to a length of 350 kilometres.