Nasser Al Attiyah competes during the third stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Tuesday.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
The only certainties before the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge reaches its conclusion are that victory does not come easy, and this is still the case after the 30th edition’s third leg.
The drivers’ title remains in the grasp of Nasser Al Attiyah who completed a hat-trick of fastest stage times with Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, stretching his overall lead to 11 mins 18 secs.
With two days and 414km of desert stages remaining, however, the Qatari cannot afford to lose pace or concentration, even though he also appears to be winning the mental battle with his closest challenger, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski.
“I’m quite happy with today — good navigation and great terrain which made it like surfing for much of the time,” said the Qatari on completing the 293km Abu Dhabi Sports Council Stage 3.
Partnered by Timo Gottschalk in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy, Przygonski declared: “Today wasn't a very good day for us because we couldn't get a very good grip, so it’s good that we finished the stage.”
Argentine Lucio Alvarez held on to third place in his Toyota Hilux Overdrive, but a broken drive shaft dropped Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi with Britain’s Michael Orr to seventh in their Toyota.
Finishing the day lying fifth overall, Poland’s Marek Goczal and Lukasz Laskawiec in a CAN-AM Maverick now top the FIA T4 category, while Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Alsaif with Russian co-driver Egor Okhotikov lead T3 in another CAN-AM Maverick.
Young Emirati driver Mansour Al Helei lies third in F4 and eighth overall with Abdulla Dakhan in another CAN-AM Maverick.
The Czech Republic’s Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country continue to dominate the class for 2022 specification cars.
Two-times Australian off-road champion Daniel Sanders was fastest on Tuesday, by 2 mins 44 secs from new FIM cross country rallies world champion Matthias Walkner, whose overall lead was slashed to 57.6 secs as a result.
Sanders started riding at the age of eight on the family apple farm, and the GasGas Factory Racing team picked a good one when they signed him up last year. This year’s Dakar was only his second rally start, and he produced a stunning performance with fourth position.
The rigours of a long season may be catching up with Walkner, who will need to muster all his strength and focus to steer his KTM to a maiden Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title.
Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren on a Yamaha lies third overall, 5mins 39 secs off the lead, with Emirati Sultan Al Balooshi holding eighth place on a KTM and Dubai-based veteran British rider Dave McBride now in the top ten.
Over the last 30 years, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has often shone the light on emerging talent, and Konrad Dabrowski, who holds ninth place, is clearly one to watch. While Dabrowski needs only to reach the finish line to be crowned FIM junior world champion, the rising star from Poland seems destined for greater things.
The 30-year history of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is crammed with moments of high drama and displays of bravery and perseverance, and the latest chapter is quickly becoming a classic in its own right.
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