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UAE Desert Challenge 2008 Special-Newssection (FIA Cross Country Worldcup)

This is the single-news section of the special of the UAE Desert Challenge 2008, last round of the FIA Worldcup for Cross Country Rallys. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

UAE Desert Challenge: Coma sneaks ahead of Despres in battle of bikes.

It has been 15 years since an Arab driver won the UAE Desert Challenge, but after a scorching day in the Empty Quarter, the long wait for a Middle East success in the event could be drawing to a close. At the end of the gruelling 296-km Nakheel Special Stage, Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah in a BMW X3 had opened up a massive lead of just over 1 hour 35 mins from Russian driver Leonid Novitskyi in another BMW X3.

While it will now take some form of mechanical disaster to block Al-Attiyah’s path to victory, the Qatari has experienced enough misfortunes in this event over the years to know that it would be foolish to take anything for granted, with three days of tough desert driving remaining.

On a day when he produced another immaculate display, the UAE flag was carried bravely through the Rub Al Khali by the irrepressible Yahya Alhelei, who once again proved what a clever and tenacious desert specialist he is by climbing into third place.

Driving the showroom Nissan Patrol he spent AED300,000 of is own money on converting for action in the Desert Challenge, the Emirati cannot match the power of the specially prepared rally super cars which dominate the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.

But on a day when the unforgiving Rub Al Khali claimed a succession of victims, Alhelei was second fastest on the Nakheel stage, climbing one place from fourth overnight, and moving to within nine minutes of Novitskyi.

Driving one of the mighty Kamaz trucks which are such a familiar sight in the event, Russian Vladimir Chagin, partnered by Sergey Savostin and Anatoly Tahin, finished the day in a remarkable fourth position, with the top six completed by UAE-based Laurent Rosso in a Nissan Pathfinder and Japan’s Jun Mitsuhash in a Toyota Land Cruiser

Making it a good day all round for the host country, Ali Al Shawi and Abdulla Alheraiz, both driving Nissan Patrols, each found top ten positions which they will be aiming to build on in tomorrow’s (Wednesday) 340-km Nissan Special Stage 3.

Al Attiyah finished the second leg to say: "It was a really difficult stage and was slow because of the soft sand. We were careful and made no mistakes and we were able to cover the last 30km very fast because the sand was harder."

Alhelei said: "It’s been a really difficult day because of the soft, deep sand with some very big dunes to get out of. Some were so big you had to circle a few times to build up speed. You need experience on these stages so it’s been a good day really."

While the battle of the big bikes this week was always likely to be dominated by Spain’s Marc Coma and his French team-mate Cyril Despres, who have six Desert Challenge titles between them, the two KTM stars were overshadowed on the day by Chilean rider Francisco Lopez. He was fastest on the Nakheel stage, and as a result climbed from sixth place overnight to third place, with Coma, who is chasing a hat-trick of wins in the UAE, sneaking 29 seconds ahead of Despres.

UAE-based James West dropped one place overnight to fourth ? his finishing position in the event last year ? with German rider Tim Trenker and Frenchman Alan Duclos completing the top six. Polish rider Jakub Przygonski, still in the hunt for the world 450cc Rally Sport title, and fellow-countryman Jacek Czachor, who has a clear path to the 450cc production title, were both going well in top ten places.

In the 450cc class, Portugues rider Ruben Faria won the Nakheel stage to take a lead of just over nine minutes from UAE-based Irish rider Davd McBride, who has produced some courageous Desert Challenge performances.

The second leg claimed a number of casualties, including Spanish rider Gerard Farres who was evacuated to Medinat Zayed Hospital by helicopter for surgery on a broken wrist, and Latvia’s Janis Vinters who was treat0ed there for a broken bone in his back.

2008/10/29 | 10:14 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Tamer Abdel Khalek

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