ABU DHABI, 7th March, 2022 (WAM) — The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge offered another dramatic episode today as heroic Argentinian rider Kevin Benavides fueled hopes of a first motorcycle victory and Stephane Peterhansel held course for a record seventh car win.
On the 318km ADNOC Distribution Special Stage 2, four-wheeler Nasser Al Attiyah and two-wheeler Ross Branch set the best times, 24 hours after both fell out of the overall competition.
It was a day that Benavides vividly embodied the spirit of the new World Rally Raid Championship as he stopped for more than 20 minutes to help overnight bikes leader Michael Docherty after his bad crash before recovering the overall leadership.
In the end, the KTM star is credited with the time he gave up helping Docherty. The KTM star now has a lead of 4 minutes and 23 seconds over American Ricky Brabec, while Chile’s Ignacio Cornejo is a further 41 seconds in third place.
Completing the top six were former champions Sam Sunderland on a GasGas and Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla, followed by Luciano, the other Benavides brother, on a Husqvarna.
Petershansel, fourth fastest on the stage in an Audi RS Q e-tron, finished the stage with a reduced overall car lead of 7 minutes and 49 seconds over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi in a Toyota Hilux.
Third place went to the Czech Martin Prokop in his Ford Raptor RS Cross Country, 15 minutes and 50 seconds behind.
Pole Jakub Przygonski in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy and Mathieu Serradori in a Century CR6 completed the provisional top five.
Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, whose hopes of winning his Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge debut were dashed by a series of mechanical problems on the first stage, recovered to set the second fastest time of the day in his Prodrive Hunter.
Reaching the finish line in his Toyota Hilux, Al Attiyah said, “Now we will try to win every day to get as many points as we did today. We did a pretty good job, I’m very happy. We have to work for the points now. Today we won five and I hope to get five points tomorrow as well.
“It’s a disappointment not to win the rally because it’s my favorite rally. We have to accept what happened yesterday. This is motorsport.
It was another great day for Emirati rider Abdulaziz Ahli as the reigning quad champion on a Yamaha Raptor extended his lead over Slovakia’s Juraj Varga to a massive 1 hour 24 minutes and 12 seconds. Dubai-based Docherty deservedly took the spotlight of the rally as the overall class leader at the end of the previous day’s desert stage after winning Saturday’s qualifying.
However, the start of today’s stage was always difficult due to the navigation demands involved and the South African had already been passed by Mathias Walkner when he crashed.
Benavides stopped to help him before the medical team arrived at the scene and Docherty was evacuated to MadinatZayed Hospital by helicopter.
Benavides said at the finish: “It was really long and hot today. I stopped to help Michael when he fell and was waiting for medical help to arrive. On the positive side it looks like my brother has one had a great ride, as did I.” happy.”
Branch commented: “It was a good day for me. I rode smoothly and consistently tried to minimize mistakes after yesterday’s mistakes and the crash. Today my handling was much better.”
Another South African, Bradley Cox, who was fastest in the Rally 2 category that day, also fell and was taken to hospital by helicopter. But Branch, who was evacuated from yesterday’s stage for a hospital check-up, was cleared for the restart today and was quickly back at the stage winner’s pace.
ADNOC Distribution supplies the jet fuel for the search and rescue helicopters that are on constant standby to come to the aid of competitors in need.
Today’s ADNOC Distribution Special Stage 2 took the cars, trucks, motorbikes and quads on a difficult 318km passage through the Al Dhafradunes, using My Station Trucks to refuel the rally participants along the spectacular desert route.
“We are delighted to have our My Station service attending this event and being able to refuel vehicles while participants are racing during this challenging time,” said Bader Saeed Al Lamki, CEO of ADNOC Distribution. Sourced and refined in the United Arab Emirates, our premium Super 98 fuel is specially formulated to provide advanced care and efficiency in the most demanding environments. We are honored to be a part of this event and to keep the racers moving on their journey to victory.”
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is held under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region.
The strategic partners of the rally are the Court of Representatives of the Ruler of Al Dhafra Region, Ministry of Defense, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, ADNOC Distribution, Al-Futtaim Toyota, Abu Dhabi Police, YasMarina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Aviation, National Ambulance, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co., Al Dhafra Region Municipality, Al-Ain Water, Abu Dhabi Sports TV, Civil Protection and the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center.