Al Attiyah extends his advantage in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Sport360 staff 21:49 04/04/2016
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Dune-bashing: Nasser Al-Attiyah has proved unstoppable so far in his Toyota Hilux.

Nasser Al Attiyah extended his overall cars lead in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge while Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla grabbed a slender advantage after a fascinating bikes tussle between three of the world’s top riders Monday.

Accompanied by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in a new Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah won the 279km Nissan Patrol Stage to increase his overnight advantage to 10 mins 21 secs over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gotschalk in a Mini All4Racing.

A satisfied Al-Attiyah said: “It was a very difficult stage, needing a lot of concentration on the dunes and there were some very sharp ones. Driving the new car in the sand dunes was a very good experience. The Toyota is working very well, despite having less torque than the Mini. Today I gave my 100 per cent and I’m very happy to finish with such a lead.”

Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev maintained hopes of a third successive Desert Challenge triumph in a Mini by climbing one place to third. However, at 13 mins 30 secs off the pace, he will surely require Al Attiyah to find problems in order to achieve the hat-trick.

After having to replace the gearbox on his Mini before the start of the stage, the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi was unable to improve on his ninth place overall.

The retirement of eight-times winner Marc Coma has guaranteed that there will be a new bikes champion this time, and a fascinating contest is developing between three of the world’s top riders to decide the outcome.

Overnight leader Toby Price finished in third place behind Quintanilla and Dubai-based British rider Sunderland, but the leading trio are separated by just 2mins 48secs.

Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi did very well to climb three spots to finish in fourth place.

It was a fabulous performance and a delighted Balooshi said:  “Today was really good; I rode a big part of the day leading a pack which is very tiring because you have to navigate, keep your pace and at the same time, control possible overtakes from the riders behind you. But it was a great ride.”

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