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Nasser surges into lead; Al-Rajhi stays second
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 04 - 2016

Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah surged into an early lead in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan here Sunday.
Partnered by Frenchman Mathieu Baumel in a brand new Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah won the 278km Yas Marina Circuit Stage in impressive style to take a 2 mins 18 secs lead from Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gotschalk in a Mini All4Racing.
Poland's Jakub Przygonski and Belgian Tom Colsoul also in a Mini were 1 min 33 secs further away in third, with Russian Vladimir Vasilyev, the cars winner for the last two years, another
1mins 26 secs behind.
Poland's Marek Dabrowski in a Toyota Hilux and American Bryce Menzies, another Desert Challenge newcomer in a Mini, completed the top six. Finn Mikko Hirvonen, the four-time World Rally Championship runner-up, finished the leg in seventh place in a Mini.
It was a frustrating day for the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi alongside Emirati co-driver Khalid Al-Kendi in a new Abu Dhabi Racing Mini All4 Racing.
He finished the leg 16 minutes off the lead in ninth place after sliding into a ditch and later briefly losing his way.
In the battle of the bikes, Australian rider Toby Price, this year's Dakar Rally winner, took the stage to lead by 35 seconds from his KTM teammate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland.
Chile's Pablo Quintanilla is another 34 seconds away in third on his Husqvarna, with Portuguese riders Helder Rodrigues and Jakub Piatek followed by Spain's Txomin Arana Cobeaga completing the top six.
Top Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi finished the leg in seventh place, one place ahead of veteran Dubai-based Dave McBride, with Spanish lady rider Laia Sanz in ninth on her Desert Challenge debut.
Al Attiyah clearly enjoyed his perfect start to the Desert Challenge, his technical disqualification 12 months ago long forgotten as he set out to become the first Arab driver to win the event since his own victory back in 2008.
Outpacing a trio of Minis, the car which has dominated the rally in recent years, he reached the end of the stage to say simply: "It was very good day and I'm pleased to show people that the performance of the Toyota is very good."
Al-Rajhi said: "It was a good first stage, nothing special. We were sick in the morning, but we are here now and we finished so we're happy."
Taking place under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the ruler's representative in the Western region, the rally is organized by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the national motor sport authority. — SG

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