AL ATTIYAH MOVES WITHIN REACH OF SECOND ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE TITLE AS VASILYEV FINDS DISASTER

Quintanilla reclaims bikes lead as ADNOC stage lives up to its tough reputation

Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah continued along his relentless path towards a second cars triumph in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan today 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 mins 08 secs.

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-times WRC runner-up Hirvonen in third.

Making his Desert Challenge debut, American Bryce Menzies is clearly benefitting 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 Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, partnered by Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi, continued to climb in his Abu Dhabi Racing Mini All4Racing to complete the top six.

Another Emirati driver, Ahmad Al Maqoodi, moved into the top ten alongside Obaid Al Kitbe in their Polaris RZR to lead the buggies category. Among the day’s casualties were the all lady crew of Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt and Swede Tina Thorner whose buggy broke its gearbox.

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.

But 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 team-mate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland, just two seconds further away.

It was a splendid day for top Emirati rider Mohammed 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 Mohammed Ben 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.”

Al-Rajhi said: “That was a hot stage with lots of soft sand. I saw Vasilyev stuck but other than that I was driving alone the whole stage. I’m looking forward to tomorrow's final stage, even though it's a shorter one.”

Looking exhausted after his efforts on the stage, Hirvonen moved quickly away from the end of the stage towards the bivouac without pausing to describe his day.

An always talkative Menzies said: “I didn't feel so good this morning and it was so hot but we started well and pushed hard. We were just behind Nasser and had a great battle with Mikko but then 50km from the end I hit a ditch, losing 5 or 6 minutes after doing so well. It's different for me racing six days straight compared to usual, but I'm constantly learning and really enjoying it. Hopefully I’ll push some more tomorrow.”

Al Qassimi said: “It was a good day but tiring and I decided to mix caution with limited aggression, particularly because of the slight neck injury I sustained on Leg 2 and did not want to aggravate it further. The goal is to finish the Challenge after having to retire on my debut last year. I switched to a more balanced driving strategy, particularly over the last 20km to the finish because it became very hot and I started dehydrating again like yesterday. We will now rest and see how the final day goes.”

Quintanilla, who had led the bikes category at the end of the second leg, said at today’s finish: “It was really hot today, but it was still fun and I enjoyed the stage.”

Sunderland underlined his frustration when he said: “Today was ok, but a bit too much of strategy. That’s a little annoying - I don't like too much strategy.”

Price said: “It was a very hot day. We were lucky on the first few days of the rally when it was much cooler. But that’s another 250km in the bag. One more day to go, should be good. Today was smooth riding most of the time.”

A delighted Al Balooshi commented: “I caught up with the top three and rode with them. I'm in 4th overall and to be 4th after the factory guys is very good. As a small private team I get a lot of support and am so proud. It was tougher today with people having some strategy, but I ride by my own plans and I'm happy to be here and for tomorrow.”

Quads leader Rafal Sonik, Poland’s reigning world champion, said: “Until refuelling it was great. Then the shock absorbers overheated and I just had springs. I had to take it slow in the sectors with drops. Then the steering dampers also overheated. So that made this already difficult stage even more challenging.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region, the 26th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan is organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the national motor sport authority.

The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 13th year as the official vehicle of the event. The line-up of strategic sponsors and partners includes the Ruler’s Court in the Western Region, Western Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Nissan, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Tadweer (The Center of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi), Rotana and Centro Hotels - Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort, and DP World.

Leading positions after ADNOC Stage 4 (Provisional) Cars
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT / FRA) Toyota Hilux                        14:36.32

2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi / Timo Gotschalk (KSA / DEU) Mini All4 Racing                     15:04.40

3. Mikko Hirvonen / Michel Perin (FIN / FRA) Mini All4 Racing                            15:12.12
4. Bryce Menzies / Andreas Schulz (USA / DEU) Mini All4 Racing                        15:17.05

5. Jakub Przygonski / Tom Colsoul (POL / BEL) Mini All4 Racing              15:18.55
6. Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi / Khalid Al Kendi (ARE /ARE) Mini All4 Racing      15:43.32

7. Mathieu Serradori / Didier Haquette (FRA / FAR) Buggy                                    15:46.16

8. Mark Dabrowski / Jacek Czachor (POL / POL)                                                     17:02.05
9. Yuriy Sazonov / Dmytro Tsyro (KAZ / RUS)                                                        17:57.54
10. Ahmad Al Maqoodi / Obaid Al Kitbe (ARE /ARE) Polaris RZR 1000 T3         18:06.47  

Bikes
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) Husqvarna 450 Rally Factory 1                          15:27.22
2. Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 Rally Factory 1                                             15:30.07                     
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Factory 1                                   15:30.09
4. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally Replica                          15:53.23
5. Pierre Alexandre Renet (FRA)                                                                   15:56.52
6. Jakub Piatek (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1/4                                       16:09.41

7. Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 Rally Factory 1/3                                            16:10.55
8. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL)                                                         16:17.54
9. David McBride (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1                                     16:26.56
10. Txomin Arana Cobeaga (ESP) Husqvarna 450 Rally Replica 1               16:56.44  

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan – remaining rally schedule:
Thursday:        Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5 (234km). Finish: Yas Marina Circuit – 4.30pm.