Nasser Al Attiyah competes during the prologue in Al Dhannah City on Sunday.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
As the Desert Challenge celebrates its 32nd anniversary, 2023 organiser the Emirates Motor Sport Organisation (EMSO) and energy partner Adnoc Distribution have taken the prologue of the Desert Challenge to Al Dhannah City, a first in the rally’s history.
Evolving the route to bring Al Dhannah City into the story of this prestigious event marks a highly positive step in the broader popularisation of the ADDC, bringing the racing action closer to the local populace and sports fans.
The prologue, which is 50% hard-pack and 50% soil, determines Monday’s start positions with the ten fastest among both drivers and riders able to choose their starting position for Stage 1.
EMSO and Adnoc have been engines of change for this exciting route, which at 1915 kilometres is longer than last year. Added to that, leg 1 and many elements of the rest of the route are new. EMSO CEO Mahir Badri, commented: “The new course really lives up to the idea of ‘challenge’, and we’re sure that it will push the competitors to the limit, while also offering sumptuous views of this unique region. Given the logistical challenges of hosting such a complex event, everything went off without a problem thanks to the support of the Al Dhannah authorities and the generous hospitality of Adnoc Distribution.”
Nasser Al Attiyah of Toyota Gazoo Racing took the prologue in T1, while American driver Seth Quintero placed first in T3, and Lithuania’s Rocas Baciuska won in T4. Chilean Pablo Quintanilla set the pace with a masterful ride on the mixed terrain of the prologue route, taking first place
Austrian Tobias Ebster, the nephew of KTM legend Heinz Kinigadner, won in Rally 2. The Quad category went to double title holder Abdulaziz Ahli of the newly formed Abu Dhabi Team. Stage 1, which starts tomorrow in Ghiyathi City with the finish line in Liwa, near Tal Mor’eb, will run over a total distance of 404 kilometres including a Special Stage of 242 kilometres.
From the perspective of the World Championship, the prologue did not affect the hopes of the favourites Loeb and Attiyah.
Guerlain Chicherit, 3rd overall in the championship, is also in the mix, while Yazeed Al Rajhi, with 4th time of the day, was a mere one second slower than Loeb. In the motorcycle category, Honda scored a one-two with Pablo Quintanilla and Adrien Van Beveren in front of Toby Price (KTM), the three riders all placed in the Top 4 of the FIM championship. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna), currently 3rd in the general standings, had a bad day with the slowest time in the Rally GP category.
After an exhilarating run, Quintero commented: “I was a little bit too nervous to try to cut some of the lines, and I didn’t know where the way points were, so I didn’t want to take the risk, But overall, I’m very happy with my run, and it feels great to get back with the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team.”
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