Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is relishing the various challenges the Dakar Rally brings as he moved up into 10th overall on a day featuring more obstacles.
This time, a 100km stretch of sand dunes coupled with distractions from the bikes category forced the Abu Dhabi Racing and Peugeot Middle East driver to be on top of his game.
The result was Al Qassimi moving up one place in the overall standings in the Pisco-San Juan De Marcona stage on day three.
“Today was a tough yet good day for us. I was following a balanced rhythm in order to avoid making any mistakes, but the Dakar is known for the surprises it can throw up along the way.
“We faced navigational challenges over the opening 30km but everything went well thereafter until we caught up with the bikes that had started ahead of us.
“We saw a lot of bikes struggling ahead of us in the dunes; some of the bikes were stuck in the sand 50km from the start.
“We tried to ride away from the bikes as they were blocking us, in the process I got stuck twice and lost precious time.
“I hit a bike ahead of me on a small dune, but fortunately the rider was fine. However, we had to stop to help him and to remove the bike that had got stuck under our car.
“Overall it was a good day for us, the distractions we faced were part of the challenges. I am now looking forward to continue with the rally in a balanced rhythm and hopefully without any problems.”
Late Tuesday night, reigning Dakar Rally motorcycle champion Sam Sunderland dropped out of the race with a back injury, allowing Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren to take the overall lead after winning the fourth stage.
Sunderland, riding for dominant team KTM and leading the overall rankings coming into yesterday’s stage in San Juan de Marcona, withdrew after injuring his back while entering a jump, according to the rally organisers.
He had to be evacuated by helicopter after suffering the accident.
Forced to abandon this year’s event @Sundersam is receiving medical examinations in Lima, Peru following a crash today on stage four of the @dakar … get well soon Sam.#KTM #Dakar2018
📷 Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool pic.twitter.com/joAJdfSbyg
— KTM Factory Racing (@KTM_Racing) January 9, 2018
Van Beveren finished five minutes ahead of team-mate Xavier de Soultrait and seven minutes in front of the Austrian KTM rider Matthias Walkner.
The Yamaha rider takes the lead in the overall standings, 1 minute 55 seconds ahead of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla of Husqvarna.
The UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi, meanwhile, finished stage four in 31st, 39 minutes, 50 seconds off Van Beveren’s pace.
Al Balooshi will attempt to fight his way back from 31st overall, where he is over one hour and 42 minutes away from the lead.
The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally takes place on the South American continent for the 10th time, with drivers getting the opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with the Pacific Ocean and the Peruvian dunes.
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.
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.”
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 8, 2018