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Sealine Rally Qatar: Yazeed Al-Rajhi rejoins Toyota Overdrive Tam in Qatar. | 19.04.2014


Sealine Rally Qatar: Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to compete in a Mini All4 Racing. | 16.04.2014


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Abu Dhabi DC: Schlesser and Coma retain top positions ahead of final stage.






After four days of intense competition, both against the desert and each other, the remaining competitors in this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge are tantalisingly close to the finish line.

Jean-Louis Schlesser, Marc Coma and Obaid Al Kitbe from the UAE will all be dreaming of victory as they sit in top place in the car, bike and quad categories respectively with just 287 kilometres to go.

The toughest stage of the rally, today’s 317 kilometre leg pushed the rally’s remaining competitors and their vehicles to the max ahead of Friday’s departure from the beautiful Western Region of Al Gharbia and on to the finish line at Al Dafrah. This penultimate leg is appropriately named after Nissan, a long-term supporter of the rally, whose flagship Patrol SUV is the race’s official car.

Driving the Team X-Raid Mini All4, Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei has enjoyed an impressive return to racing in the UAE, but got stuck in sand towards the end of today’s stage, seriously damaging his chances of a remarkable comeback win. The result nevertheless extended his lead over third place Patrick Sireyjol from France.

This left veteran racer Jean-Louis Schlesser looking odds-on to record a remarkable sixth Desert Challenge win, his first since 2003. The Frenchman enjoyed a good day behind the wheel of his Sonangol Buggy, finishing over 21 minutes ahead of Al-Mutaiwei to open up a 38:03 mins lead over the Emirati.

Reinforcing the extreme nature of the competition, and the incredible demands it places on competitors and their vehicles alike, only around 60% of the cars that started remain in the rally. Of these, six are piloted by Emiratis, and a seventh by Ibrahim Al Muhanna from Saudi Arabia.

Current FIM World Champion, Helder Rodrigues claimed his first stage win of the rally, ahead of current Desert Challenge champion, Marc Coma, who finished 15:26 mins behind in eleventh. But it wasn’t enough to change the overall lead, which Coma retained, albeit by a reduced margin.

Ahead of tomorrow’s final stage, the Spaniard is 6:34 mins ahead of fellow countryman Joan Barreda-Bort, and 8:25 mins ahead of Portuguese rider, Paulo Goncalves in third. Sean Gaugain of the Gecko Team is the highest placed UAE rider, in seventh place overall, while Emirati Mohammed Balooshi is 13th.

Today was a long day, with a long track. We opened the track for the others, so we lost some time, but it’s still ok," said Coma. "Tomorrow is another long stage where you could lose a lot of time, but equally where you could gain it, so overall we’re in pretty good shape."

A bad day for UAE resident Sebastian Husseini, who broke his quad’s suspension, meant it was a particularly good one for Emirati Obaid Al Kitbe in the quad bike category. Al Kitbe’s stage win, combined with Husseini’s misfortune, means that the Umm Al Quwain resident now holds a lead of more than 1h 50m over his new closest challenger Lukasz Laskawiec from Poland

Ahead of what he hopes will be a triumphant return to Yas Marina tomorrow, Obaid commented: "I kept my energy for tomorrow. One of my tyres was flat but I made it back. I’m hoping for a good race tomorrow, hoping to keep my lead, and hoping to finish the race in front, which is the dream of all racers."

With Husseini dropping down to eighth, behind Atif Al Zaroni, Camelia Liparoti jumped into third position, and will be looking to follow up on her impressive second place last year with a second successive podium position. Currently sitting in fifth position, another female entrant, Andrea Mayer from Germany, will also be holding hopes for a top three finish.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge carries a particular emotional appeal for the many Emiratis who enter each year. The chance to compete in their homeland, against the world’s top riders and drivers is an unmissable opportunity for any serious racer. And the sand dunes that cover the majority of the 1,520 kilometres of competitive stages act as a great leveller, offering the local stars the chance of toppling the big names.

One such racer is Yahya Bel Helei, who has competed in every single Desert Challenge since it was founded 22 years ago. Having finished fourth last year, Bel Helei is currently in fifth place and still holds out hopes of claiming a top three position with co-driver Khalid Al Kendi in their Nissan Patrol.

"I think I have done very well up until now, especially considering I am competing against world class drivers, who are racing in cars built specifically for this desert terrain," he said. "The Liwa desert is a very difficult place to race, and only competitors who have taken part in the Desert Challenge can fully understand this. As we head into the final day, I am very pleased to be leading the T2 category and in fourth place overall."

Nabil Al Shamsi and co-driver Salem Rashed have also enjoyed some success this year, although day four was marred by a broken driveshaft, leaving them out of the running for a podium position. "I will be working hard to fix the problem with my team and am looking forward to starting again tomorrow. The great thing about the Desert Challenge is that every day is a new race," said Al Shamsi.

"This is the biggest rally in the Middle East," he added. "I’m really happy to welcome so many top international competitors to the UAE and it’s a great feeling when you pass champions from other countries, but my competition is really against the desert itself, not other drivers."

Renowned as being one of the world’s most difficult, technically demanding endurance rallies, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge attracts the best racers from across the globe, determined to conquer the towering sand dunes and extreme heat of the Western Region.

2012/04/06 | 19:08 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/DRINKWATER/AZIZ











Sealine Rally Qatar: Yazeed Al-Rajhi rejoins Toyota Overdrive Tam in Qatar. | 19.04.2014 15:48 | NEW




Sealine Rally Qatar: After a short break, four X-raid Mini are back in action | 19.04.2014 15:24 | NEW




Donaldson CC: Tovey first footballer in Imperial Auto Celebrity Challenge | 19.04.2014 15:08 | NEW




Hungarian CC: Second race, second win for Polish Chevrolet at Turkeve Cup | 16.04.2014 19:50 | NEW




Sealine Rally Qatar: Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to compete in a Mini All4 Racing. | 16.04.2014 19:22 | NEW




Breslau Rally VIDEO: Official trailer of the legendary Breslau Rally Poland 2014 | 15.04.2014 23:08 |




Dakar Rally 2015 VIDEO: The Lion is back - Peugeot 2008 DKR presentation | 15.04.2014 23:05 |




Breslau Rally: Rally will be more International - new full Cross-Country class. | 15.04.2014 20:06 |




Dakar Rally 2015: Dakar Tour stopped in the Netherlands with Cyril Despres | 15.04.2014 19:24 |




Dakar Rally 2015: Peugeot unveiled first details of Peugeot 2008 DKR Proto. | 15.04.2014 19:05 |




Hungarian CC VIDEO: Short impressions Turkeve Cup - Nissan Qashqai Proto | 15.04.2014 18:53 |




Hungarian CC: Double bad luck for Hungarian Solyom Team at Turkeve Cup | 15.04.2014 18:41 |




Australasian Safari: Competitors from all around the globe - Rallysafe System | 15.04.2014 18:13 |




Dakar Rally 2015 VIDEO: Tatra-Union - Loprais and Buggyra Dakar Forces | 15.04.2014 17:39 |




FIM World Cup: Paulo Gonçalves - "It's not about luck - it’s about hard work". | 15.04.2014 17:38 |




Sealine Rally Qatar: QMMF announces route for Sealine Cross Country rally. | 14.04.2014 17:43 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Marc Coma - "We fought until the last kilometer" | 14.04.2014 17:11 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Official video impression D5 in Abu Dhabi | 14.04.2014 16:24 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Summary Vasilyev Mini All4 Racing Team | 14.04.2014 16:19 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Kazakhstan Teams Interview Sven Quandt | 14.04.2014 16:13 |




TORC 2014: Kleiman adds second Truck 2014 - keeps busy at Primm Valley | 14.04.2014 15:55 |




TORC 2014: Canadian two-truck team Sle Co Race had a challenging weekend | 14.04.2014 15:47 |




TORC 2014: Cenni wins season opener - Kvamme gets first career podium | 14.04.2014 14:26 |




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Defender Challenge: Race2Recovery take top step on Defender Challenge RD2 | 14.04.2014 13:45 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Four Overdrive Toyota in the final Top 10 | 14.04.2014 13:18 |




Formula Off-Road: Robby Gordon wins round 3 in front of Venezuela´s EJ Viso | 14.04.2014 12:54 |




Dakar Rally 2015: Czech Loprais Tatra team now together with Buggyra Tatra. | 14.04.2014 11:17 |




Pharaons Rally: X-raid back in Egypt, the stages of the Egyptian Rally 2014. | 14.04.2014 10:41 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Vasilyev/Zhiltsov and Mini winning in Abu Dhabi. | 10.04.2014 15:31 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Surprising ADDC victory for Paulo Goncalves. | 10.04.2014 14:59 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Official video impression D4 in Abu Dhabi | 10.04.2014 10:43 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Impressions of SS03 by Team Matzker | 10.04.2014 10:41 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: 1-2-3 for the X-raid Minis, 4-5-6 for the Toyotas. | 10.04.2014 10:14 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Coma leading, Sunderland mechanical problems. | 10.04.2014 08:38 |




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Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Riding the dunes with Vasilyev / Zhiltsov | 09.04.2014 02:43 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Vasilyev/Zhiltsov - with "support" of Schlesser | 09.04.2014 02:23 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: "Youngster" Ollie Lloyd climbed 13th pos overall | 09.04.2014 01:20 |




Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge VIDEO: Impressions SS03 of Kazakhstan Teams | 09.04.2014 00:47 |




















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