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Nasser Al Attiyah within reach of second Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title

posted on 07/04/2016: 1610 views

Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah continued on his relentless path towards a second cars triumph in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as Chile's Pablo Quintanilla snatched a significant bikes advantage to carry into the final leg.

While Finland's Mikko Hirvonen won the 258km ADNOC stage alongside French co-driver Michel Perin in a Mini All4Racing, Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel were second fastest in a Toyota Hilux as they increased their overall lead to 28 minutes and 08 seconds.

Lying second overnight and chasing a third successive Desert Challenge victory, Russia's Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov saw their hopes buried among the dunes of the Western Region of Al Gharbia when their Mini was halted by mechanical problems.

Their misfortune promoted Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gotschalk to second place in another Mini, 7 mins 32 secs ahead of four-time WRC runner-up Hirvonen in third.

Making his Desert Challenge debut, American Bryce Menzies is clearly benefiting from the experience of German co-driver Andreas Schulz, climbing to fourth place in a Mini.

With Poland's Jakub Przygonski and Belgian Tom Colsoul in fifth, the UAE's Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi, partnered by Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi, continued to climb in his Abu Dhabi Racing Mini All4Racing to complete the top six.

In the battle of the bikes, French rider Pierre Alexandre Renet was the stage winner from Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo as he rose to fifth overall. The fourth best time on the day was enough to make Quintanilla the clear favourite for victory on his Husqvarna as he took a 2 mins 45 secs lead over this year's Dakar Rally winner Toby Price, with the Aussie's KTM teammate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland, just two seconds further away.

It was a splendid day for top Emirati rider Mohammad Al Balooshi, who outpaced Quintanilla, Price and Sam Sunderland, three of the world's biggest cross-country rallying talents, to maintain his fourth place overall.

"This stage once again lived up to its reputation as the toughest in the Desert Challenge,” said Mohammad Bin Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club, the rally organisers. "But there is still another 234km of competitive dessert rallying ahead and concentration is still very important on the final leg.”

Reaching the end of the ADNOC stage, Al-Attiyah, who captured the Desert Challenge title in 2008, said: "It wasn't easy at all. We did some of this stage yesterday, but most was completely new. We didn't take risks — we don't want to make mistakes now. I'm really happy to finish and looking forward to tomorrow.” - Gulf News -


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