Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi finds rhythm on day two of Dakar Rally

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Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi opted to take a long view after a promising outing suffered a minor setback at the end of day two of the Dakar Rally.

The Abu Dhabi Racing and Peugeot Middle East driver, behind the wheel of a 3008 DKR Maxi and with co-driver Xavier Panseri, made steady progress to finish 11th on the day, improving his overall position from 24th to 11th.

Near the finish, however, Al Qassimi noticed he had missed a point on the course and had to head back, resulting in a loss of time.

Nevertheless, he was pleased with his performance on the day.

“When we reached the flying finish we realised that we had missed a point and had to drive back maybe for about 9km and I noticed that cars I had passed earlier were now going ahead of me,” Al Qassimi said.

“The most important thing is we got to the missed point but in the process lost about five odd minutes.

“Despite this small setback, we have a good rhythm and now look to the next day.”

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner had a balanced start to his Dakar Rally campaign on day one, but a lost waypoint cost him about two minutes.

Under new regulations, drivers are now not permitted to carry maps in any form (paper, electronic or any other type of support) so crews must therefore rely solely on the roadbook and the GPS system provided by the organisers.

Sheikh Khalid, however, adjusted to the rule change to improve on his time and set himself up for the days ahead.

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Sam Sunderland takes overall lead at Dakar Rally after winning second stage

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Sam Sunderland is in the lead at the Dakar Rally.

Defending champion Sam Sunderland rode his KTM motorbike to a second stage victory from three at the Dakar Rally on Monday, run on dirt and sand tracks through imposing Peruvian canyons between Pisco and San Juan de Marcona.

The 28-year-old Briton known as Super Sam to his fans covered the course in 3hr 20min 43sec, more than three minutes ahead of his two closest rivals — Honda’s Argentine Kevin Benavides and his fellow KTM rider Toby Price of Australia.

The feat saw the Briton climb top of the overall standings, Sunday’s stage winner Joan Barreda of Spain starting well but getting lost.

Barreda came in 30 minutes off Sunderland’s mark after taking a short cut and got lost only to lose even more time by doubling back too far when missing a waypost in the sand dunes.

Meanwhile, Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi gained 40 positions on day two, moving up to 36th in the overall ranking after the second stage.

He said: “It wasn’t easy. I kept my focus and kept telling myself to finish. It was quite heavy. It was a difficult day with lots of accidents. I’m very happy my bike is in good condition.”

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Sheikh Khalid says there's plenty to improve on after 24th place finish in stage one of Dakar Rally

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UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi was satisfied by how he opened his Dakar Rally campaign and wants to continue the good momentum for the remaining stages.

The Abu Dhabi Racing chairman, alongside co-driver Xavier Panseri, had a lost waypoint which cost him two minutes in the first stage but completed the 32km Peruvian desert stage between Lima and Pisco on Saturday night in 24th position in 27 minutes and seven seconds.

Although it was more than six minutes slower than winner Nasser Al Attiyah, Sheikh Khalid was pleased with the start and is hoping to improve over the next fortnight.

“We started on a balanced speed. There were a lot of tracks as the bikes started before the cars so there were a lot of tracks,” said the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner.

“As a result I missed a waypoint and so I had to circle to get back on track which cost us some precious time. But after this we had good momentum.

“It was a short day, just about 31km of special stage and now I am looking forward to the longer stages that lie ahead of us on this epic rally.”

Sheikh Khalid’s time was even quicker than nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb who is bidding for a maiden Dakar win.

The Frenchman’s hopes were hit when his Peugeot developed brake problems which left him 5 min 37 sec off the lead and down in 29th place.

“Happily, it was only 31 kilometres!” said Loeb who is bidding to become just the fourth man to win both the world rally title and Dakar after Finnish duo Ari Vatanen and Juha Kankkunen and Spain’s Carlos Sainz.

“I made it without brakes! Zero brakes!,” he added before admitting he had no idea where the problem originated and that his car’s brake lights had not provided any warning.

Peugeot, who swept the podium in 2017 with Stephane Peterhansel taking a 13th overall title, endured a day to forget with their cars struggling in the sand and wind of the desert.

Peterhansel, who has won the last two car titles, lost 2 min 15 sec and is 11th overall while team-mate Cyril Despres is 2 min 36 sec behind and in 15th.

“I didn’t have a good feeling,” said Peterhansel. “The sun was high and I couldn’t see the other sides of the dunes. So I preferred to be safe. We will have to wake up.”

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