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Al-Attiyah extends lead
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 06 - 04 - 2017

QASR AL SARAB, UAE — Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah extended his advantage in the car category to 1hr 46min 03sec after the fourth 250.25km selective section of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan Wednesday.
But the scene is set for a dramatic showdown in the motorcycle category over the closing stage Thursday. Victory on stage four fell to the Monster Energy Honda team rider Kevin Benavides, but the Argentinean lost his chance of taking the win with clutch issues on day three and a fascinating five-way battle is in prospect over the closing kilometers between overnight leader Paulo Gonçalves, Austrian Matthias Walkner, Pierre Alexandre Renet, Sam Sunderland and Pablo Quintanilla.
Gonçalves holds an advantage of 33.8 seconds over the Austrian, but both Sunderland and Quintanilla have favourable starting positions for the final day.
Mohammed Al-Balooshi has not ridden this KTM in race conditions since crashing heavily in Qatar last year, but the Ride to Abu Dhabi star holds seventh place.
Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel Qatari are in cruise control in the cars and won the stage from local driver Khalid Al-Jafla by 22min 41sec. "It was a good day for us. We don't face any problems.
Difficult dunes. It's not really high speed and we try to take it easy without mistakes. We now have a big lead and we try to reach the finish for tomorrow," said Al-Attiyah.
Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi's debut in the new Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR ground to a halt, when the PH Sport car sustained a broken drive shaft before PC2 and the Emirati lost considerable time and any chance of pushing for the win. He maintained second overall.
Czech driver Martin Prokop was third to maintain a podium place and fellow countryman Miroslav Zapletal was third on the day. There were also excellent stage performances by fifth-placed Mohammed Abu Issa and Ahmed Al-Maqoodi.
Abu Issa holds fourth overall and Mark Powell has quietly been chipping away at the leader board and another superb performance by the Dubai-based Brit has seen him climb to an unofficial seventh overall in his Fast & Speed Buggy behind Khaled Al-Feraihi's Nissan Patrol and seasoned veteran and experienced desert campaigner Yayha Al-Helai.
Rafal Sonik lost his 2min 08.6sec lead in the quad category after technical issues plagued his Honda TRX 700 after the first passage control. The Pole's delay left the door open for Peru's Alexis Hernandez Ponce to claim the stage win and for Guatamala's Rodolfo Schippers to take a category lead of 1min 43.3sec into the final stage. Kuwait's Fahad Al-Musallam is second and former leader Kamil Wisniewski holds third.
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.
Thursday is the final leg of the rally and it comprises a shorter stage of 219.76km – a virtual mirror image of the first section run in reverse. The special starts 15km north of the desert outpost of Hameem and heads in a north-easterly direction to the opening passage control at 88.52km.


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