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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Sam Sunderland continues to set pace at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Briton holds lead in bikes category with two days of the event to go

Sam Sunderland in action on the third day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Image courtesy of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge  
Sam Sunderland in action on the third day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Image courtesy of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge  

Sam Sunderland and Stephane Peterhansel remain the respective leaders of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge following the completion of Stage 3 on Tuesday.

Sunderland, the 2017 champion in the bikes category, claimed his second stage victory of the event, beating his KTM teammate Kevin Benavides, by a margin of close to three minutes.

This has helped the Briton create advantage of 12 minutes, 48 seconds over Argentine Luciano Benavides to take into Wednesday's penultimate stage, which is 286.1km in length.

Speaking of the competition, which is part of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, the Briton said: Today's stage was tough but it's never easy in this desert. I pushed until refuel to catch everyone.

"You always have to be strategic and it's never done until it's done. Anything can happen up to the finish line."

Luciano Benavides though is happy with his performance levels and is upbeat on his prospects on the five-stage event, which concludes on Thursday at Yas Marina Circuit.

He admitted though he had lost some time on the course, saying: "I had a little problem with the road book. A bit confusing at times. Overall much better than yesterday - bike is running very well."

Finishing the day in ninth place after a troubled first two legs, the UAE’s reigning FIM world champion Mohammed Al Balooshi said: “It was much better today with the cooler weather which made it easier and I am happy to finish the stage."

Meanwhile in the cars category, Peterhansel consolidated his lead at the front as he was second quickest.

It was again as Poland’s Jakub Przygonski who set the fastest time, and effort that moved him up the order to fourth, albeit still more than six seconds off Peterhansel's lead in the competition that is part of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.

Bernhard Ten Brinke remains second, 4 mins, 23 secs, behind Peterhansel, and he said his run had been limited to twice having to stop to change tyres.

"Our left front tyre exploded coming along a fast straight," he said. "We managed to change it but another 10km in the stage we had another puncture.”

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is also in contention for a home win as the Emirati sits in third place in his Peugeot 3008 DKR.

The 2004 Middle East Rally champion said: It was a nice stage today and it was good to open it.

"We found and kept our momentum so others couldn't pass us. It was an enjoyable day with a lot of variety and a lot of soft sand.”

American Casey Currie leads the buggies category from Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela.

In the battle of the quads, Russian Aleksandr Maksimov holds a 56 seconds advantage over Kuwaiti Fahad Al Musallam.

Updated: April 2, 2019 06:39 PM

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