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Al-Attiyah, Sunderland extend lead
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 03 - 04 - 2017

QASR AL SARAB, UAE — Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Dubai-based Sam Sunderland extended their lead in the car and motorcycle categories by claiming victories through the opening 276.59km selective section of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan Sunday.

The stage started east of Arjan, south of Abu Dhabi, and finished north of the remote desert resort of Qasr Al-Sarab. Dakar Rally winner Sunderland started last on the road, claimed the win by just three seconds and holds an overnight advantage of just 5.7 seconds over the Chilean defending FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Pablo Quintanilla, riding his Husqvarna.

Kuwait's Mohammed Jaffar and Abu Dhabi's Mohammed Al-Balooshi reached the finish in eighth and ninth overall on their respective KTMs.

Al-Attiyah cruised to the stage win in the cars and his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux now leads the event by 11in 35.1sec from Abu Dhabi Racing's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi.

Russian Vladimir Vasilyev finished third in his X-raid Mini All4 Racing, Czech Miroslav Zapletal was fourth and fellow countryman Martin Prokop produced an impressive performance in his Ford to claim the fifth fastest time. Italian Eugenio Amos was a surprise sixth in the unofficial standings.

Kuwaiti Fahad Al-Musallam's advantage in the quad section was short-lived and the Kuwaiti slipped out of the top five in the quad category behind Poland's stage winning Kamil Wisniewski and Guatemala's Rodolfo Schippers. Italy's Camelia Liparoti produced a good performance to finish third.

Saudi Arabia's Yasir Saeidan has unfinished business in the T2 category after missing out on last year's title and he made a strong start to his Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge campaign and was the front-running T2 driver at the early passage control checks.

Local driver Mansoor Al-Helai's plan to push hard in the T2 category suffered a severe setback when he ground to a halt before PC1. Meanwhile, Marat Abykayev's challenge for T2 honours suffered a terminal blow when the Kazakh crashed his Toyota Land Cruiser heavily early in the stage and co-driver Andrey Chipenko sustained an injury. The medical helicopter was summoned and his co-driver was airlifted to Madinat Zayed hospital with a head injury. He was conscious and in a stable condition.

Dubai-based Saluki Motorsport is running three different makes of car for founder Mark Powell (Buggy), UAE-based Georgy Gomshiashvili (Predator X185) and rookie Omani Abdullah Al-Zubair (Nissan Patrol). Experienced Welshman Quin Evans, Russian Nikita Abramov and former Dakar enduro rider Annie Seel, from Sweden, have been tasked with navigating duties. The trio began the day in 33rd, 30th and 25th overall.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is taking place under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Ruler's representative in Al-Dafra region, and has invaluable support from Al-Dafrah Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al-Ain Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotel – Yas Island, the Qasr Al-Sarab Resort and Al-Forsan Circuit.


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