Qatari driver Nasser Al Attiyah grabs early advantage on Day 1 of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Qatari driver Nasser Al Attiyah made an impressive start to his bid to win the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as he took the lead in the cars category on Sunday’s first full stage.
Partnered by Frenchman Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Al Attiyah won the 278-kilometre Yas Marina Circuit Stage to take a 2 minutes, 18 seconds lead from Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gotschalk in a Mini.
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian Tom Colsoul, also in a Mini, were 1 min, 33 secs further away in third, with Russian Vladimir Vasilyev, the cars division winner the past two years, another 1 min, 26 secs behind.
Poland’s Marek Dabrowski in a Toyota Hilux and American Bryce Menzies, another Desert Challenge newcomer in a Mini, completed the top six. Finn Mikko Hirvonen, the four-times World Rally Championship runner-up, finished the leg in seventh place in a Mini.
Al Attiyah clearly enjoyed his perfect start to the Desert Challenge.
“It was very good day and I’m pleased to show people that the performance of the Toyota is very good,” Al Attiyah said.
Al Rajhi said: “It was a good first stage – nothing special. We were sick in the morning, but we are here now and we finished so we’re happy.”
Aiming to become only the second driver to complete a Desert Challenge hat-trick, Vasilyev said of his performance: “It was a good fight. We stayed close with Nasser. No real problems - a good day.”
It was a frustrating day for the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi alongside Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi in a new Abu Dhabi Racing Mini.
He finished the leg 16 minutes off the lead in ninth place after sliding into a ditch.
“I was stuck for about 10 minutes trying to avoid a bike and went into a ditch,” the Emirati said.
“I was then trying to catch up but missed a checkpoint and had to turn around. Hopefully, we can make up the deficit over the remaining four days.”
In the battle of the bikes, Australian rider Toby Price, this year’s Dakar Rally winner, took the stage to lead by 35 seconds from his KTM teammate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland. Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla is another 34 seconds adrift in third on his Husqvarna, with Portuguese riders Helder Rodrigues and Jakub Piatek followed by Spain’s Txomin Arana Cobeaga completing the top six.
Top Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi finished the leg in seventh place, one place ahead of Dubai-based Dave McBride, with Spanish lady rider Laia Sanz in ninth on her Desert Challenge debut.
Monday’s Adnoc stage, is 279km in length, with the event finishing on Thursday.
Abu Dhabi Dessert Challenge results (Day 1)
Position driver/driver, time
1 Al Attiyah/Baumel, Toyota, 3h:30m.00s
2 Al Rajhi/Gotschalk, Mini, 3:32.18
3 Przygonski/Colsoul, Mini, 3:33.41
4 Vasilyev/Zhiltsov, Mini, 3:35.17
5 Dabrowski/Czachor, Toyota, 3:35.54
6 Menzies/Schulz, Mini, 3:36.07
7 Hirvonen/Perin, Mini, 3:39.53
8 Serradori/Haquette, Buggy, 3:43.26
9 Al Qassimi/Al Kendi, Mini, 3:46.00
10 Coffaro/Neneses, Toyota, 4:05.22
Position rider, time
1 Price, KTM, 3h:39m.39s
2 Sunderland, KTM, 3:40.14
3 Quintanilla, Husqvarna, 3:40.48
4 Rodrigues, Yamaha, 3:53.47
5 Piatek, KTM, 3:54.55
6 Arana Cobeaga, Husqvarna, 3:55.27
7 Al Balooshi, KTM, 3:56.56
8 McBride, KTM, 4:00.42
9 Sanz, KTM, 4:05.32
10 Renet, Husqvarna, 4:09.16
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Updated: April 3, 2016 04:00 AM