The 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is currently underway and three of the five stages are complete. Below are updates and photos from some of the top teams competing in this years rally along with overall standings as of SS3.
Former Dakar Rally champions Stéphane Peterhansel and Sam Sunderland have battled through bad weather to open up leads in the car and bike categories at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Here are some key points from the first three stages:
– Thirteen-time Dakar winner Peterhansel and navigator wife Andrea needed all their years of rally-raid experience to cope with the poor visibility, huge drops, relentless wind and soft sand over the first two stages.
– They have opened up a 2m26s lead in their MINI John Cooper Works Rally car over Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke following nearly 500km of desert racing with Poland’s Kuba Przygonski targeting a podium in fourth.
– Peterhansel, 53, said: “It was a complicated stage and we saw a few cars ahead struggling and getting stuck, so we played it safe and went not too fast. There was still a lot of wind which makes the dunes difficult and leading the cars for the stage was a new experience for my wife as there was no tracks to follow.”
– Frenchman Cyril Despres pulled off a great stage one win, however his MINI John Cooper Works Buggy got stuck badly in the second stage to leave him and new co-driver Dani Oliveras with little chance of victory now.
– Meanwhile in the bike category, Briton Sunderland shot out of the blocks on day one to build a lead of over six minutes but saw that cut to less than a minute after day two with winds of over 30kph churning up the sand.
– The 2017 Dakar champion revealed: “The conditions are tough so I’m focused on doing my best to get a good rhythm throughout and avoid mistakes.”
– Sunderland’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Luciano Benavides is currently fourth with Mohammed Balooshi and Mohammed Jaffar both in the top 10.
– Russian Anastasiya Nifontova is the best female biker in 13th, while Fahad Al Musallam is third in the quad category with the race ending on Thursday, April 4 at the Yas Marina Circuit with three stages left to race.
Updates and photos from the Can-Am Monster Energy teams:
As of SS3 American Casey Currie and his co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter are currently leading teammates Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin.
Casey Currie about each day:
- Day one of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is finished. We won the stage and had no issues with our Can-Am Off-Road. It was 104 today and the sand radiates the heat.
- 2nd place on stage 2, still leading the overall in SXS category. Great day in the @canam. We lead physically all day with my teammate Following us.
- Stage win in stage 3! My @canam worked perfectly today and today was the longest day of the rally. Tomorrow will be another hot day in the dunes. 2 more full days of racing to go.