UAE: Al Attiyah lands second cars title, Coma wins eighth bikes crown as sandstorm forces early closure to Desert Challenge
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 2 April, 2015: Action in the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED by Nissan reached an early conclusion today after the heavy sandstorm sweeping the UAE prevented the event’s final competitive section from being run.
The 234km Abu Dhabi Aviation Special Stage 5 was neutralised because of poor visibility, down to less than 100 metres in places, which meant that air support for the rally, which was marking its 25th anniversary, was not possible.
The 89 surviving competitors – 42 cars & buggies, 47 bikes & quads – which were due to complete the stage, instead traveled on a road section to Yas Marina Circuit where the rally’s official podium finish was later cancelled because of the adverse weather.
The finishing positions following yesterday’s Nissan Patrol SS4 effectively became the final results, meaning Nasser Al Attiyah secured his second victory in the event while reigning world champion Marc Coma recorded his eighth bikes win.
There was a double success for the UAE, with Ahmed Al Fahim taking the T3 buggies title by finishing ninth overall in a Polaris and fellow-Emirati Mansour Al Helei capturing the T2 production class cars title by finishing 13th in his Nissan Patrol. Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa won the Desert Challenge quads crown for the second time in three years on a Yamaha Raptor.
“It would have been very dangerous for the competitors to go ahead with the stage and there was no visibility to get the Abu Dhabi Aviation helicopters into the air to provide vital safety cover,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.
“My decision to cancel the stage was based purely on competitor safety. We are trusted by all competitors to look after them and the decision was supported by all the drivers and riders and the teams.
“We have had four great days of desert rallying at its best which has added to the history of the Desert Challenge and again showed it to be a unique test for competitors and rally machinery. We’re already looking forward to making next year’s event even better.”
The 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region, is the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.
“I would like to thank His Highness and the authorities in Abu Dhabi and the Western Region for their continued support and encouragement, without which it would not be possible to stage the event,” said Sulayem.
“As the rally organisers, we also want to thank all our other sponsors, the competitors, our wonderful Search and Rescue team, and the many volunteers who give up their time to make this the best rally of its kind.”
The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 12th year as the official vehicle of the event.
The line-up of strategic 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, Al Ain Mineral Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotels – Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort, Explorer and DP World.
Al Attiyah, partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in his Mini All4 Racing, added to his 2008 cars victory in the event as he won by 19min 47secs from Russia’s defending champion Vladimir Vasilyevin in another Mini.
Dutchman Erik Van Loon and Britain’s Harry Hunt in two more Minis, and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Poland’s Marek Dabrowski, both driving a Toyota Hilux, completed the top six.
In the battle of the bikes, Coma won by 11 mins 55secs from his KTM team-mate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland, while the UAE’s multiple Arab moto cross champion, Mohammed Al Balooshi, finished sixth overall in a world-class field. Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla, Portugal’s Ruben Faria and American Ricky Brabec, filled the other top six places.
Qatari Abu Issa captured the quads title by 24mins 43secs from last year’s Desert Challenge quads winner and reigning world champion RafalSonik of Poland.
Nasser Al Attiyah said: “It was a great rally for me and I’m happy to be here in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after winning it in 2008, and missing it last year. I’m really happy to win the rally again.”
Marc Coma said: “I am very happy with the result. It was a great rally and I made no mistakes. I know how tough the race is from previous years, so we made some good tactical decisions as a team and it paid off. The bike was great and I had no problems. It is another victory for the team and for me it’s my eighth win here so I am delighted and very proud.”
Quads winner Abu Issa said: “I am really happy to have won in my category. The rally was a nice challenge and being in the sand was good. It is my ‘home’ and my favourite terrain. The first two days I pushed and then cruised through the other stages. I was pleased to win my favourite, the Nissan stage. It was a shame that today was cancelled as I was looking forward to the hype of arriving into Abu Dhabi.”
Al Helei, the T2 winner, said: “I am very happy to be the winner of the category, in what is very much a family car. This was handed down to me by my father, Yahya Al Helei. I pushed so hard in the rally in order to finish. The car is not top in this category and I experienced a lot of mechanical issues but I tried my best and I am delighted with the result.”
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT / FRA ) Mini All4 Racing 14:33:01.0
2. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS ) Mini All4 Racing 14:52:48.0
3. Erik Van Loon / Wouter Rosegaar (NED / NED ) Mini All4 Racing 15:13:03.0
4. Harry Hunt / Andreas Schulz ( GBR / DEU) Mini All4 Racing 15:43:36.0
5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi / TimoGotschalk( KSA / DEU ) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16:27:01.0
6. Marek Dabrowski / Jacek Czachor( POL / POL ) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16:42:41.0
7. Orlando Terranova / Bernardo Graue (ARG / ARG ) Mini All4 Racing 16:59:49.0
8. Adam Malysz / RafalMarton( POL / POL ) Mini All4 Racing 17:11:07.0
9. Ahmed Al Fahim (UAE) Polaris RZR 1000 T3 18:00:18.0
10.Ali Al Ketbi / JavidWaris ( UAE / UAE ) Nissan Patrol 18:51:32.0
1. Marc Coma (SPA) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 14:49:05.0
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:01:00.0
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:09:21.0
4. Ruben Faria (POR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:17:06.0
5. Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda CRF 450 Rally 1 J 15:23:22.0
6. Mohammad Al Balooshi (UAE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:33:53.0
7. Juan Salvatierra (BOL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1 15:52:11.0
8. Matt Hart (AUS) KTM 450 SXF 1 16:02.20.0
9. Joe Cornejo (CHI) Suzuki RMZ 450 X 16:02:36.0
10. David McBride (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 16:06:40.0