|Abu Dhabi DC: Peterhansel, Novitskiy and Schlesser the big winners in UAE.|
France’s Stéphane Peterhansel today wrapped up a record-breaking seventh Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge win, securing his place as the world-class rally’s most decorated champion.
After engaging in a titanic tussle for the lead with Russia’s Leonid Novitskiy, the current world champion and the Frenchman’s BMW X3CC driving Team X-raid colleague, Peterhansel piloted his Mini All4 Racing car home in an overall time of 20:33:58 hours.
Having previously won the event twice in the bikes category, Peterhansel revealed his joy at finishing the 1,570-kilometre event and clinching a fourth consecutive Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge win - his fifth cars category title in total.
"Our first target was to win and our second target was to test the Mini on the dunes," said Peterhansel. "We achieved them both, so it’s not bad at all. This is my first victory with Team X-Raid, so it was very nice."
Close behind the X-raid pair was experienced Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser in his Schlesser Original buggy. Peterhansel was full of praise for his fellow podium finishers.
"It was a nice fight between Leonid and me, but also Jean-Louis Schlesser was good," he said. "I want to say thank you to Leonid. On the second day I was completely stuck for a long time and he stopped to help me."
There was also good news for the UAE, as Emirati driver Yahya Bil Helei and co-diver Khalid Al Kendi took fourth place in the final Abu Dhabi stage in their Australian built Isuzu D-Max pickup - a result which elevated the pair to fourth overall. Bil Helei, a Desert Challenge veteran, finished the rally in 26:07:13 hours.
"I’m extremely happy to have finshed in fourth position," he said. "Considering that all of the drivers ahead of me were extremely famous rally drivers, it’s an even bigger honour. The rally this year was very difficult, so my experience with UAE desert rallying was a big help."
2011/04/07 | 15:37 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/REDDING