Al Balooshi becomes first Emirati to first inside top three

Sport360 staff 07:45 07/04/2016
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Local hero: UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi.

Pierre Alexandre Renet (France) was the stage winner as he rose to fifth overall, one behind Al Balooshi who was impressive in maintaining his fourth position.

Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla snatched a significant advantage to carry into the final leg despite recording the fourth best time on the day. The Husqvarna rider took a 2 mins 45 secs lead over this year’s Dakar Rally winner Toby Price, with Sam Sunderland just two seconds further away.

It was a splendid day for Al Balooshi who outpaced Quintanilla, Price and Sunderland, three of the world’s biggest cross country rallying talents. Adding shine to his achievement is the fact that he is a privateer (non-factory supported) compared to his other top rivals.

Al Balooshi said: “I am very happy to be able to score this result. Me and my team have worked very hard for it and it makes me happy to have the chance to give them this joy.

“We are all very proud of the work we do with so much effort and this keeps us motivated and also willing for more… We are not stopping here at all.

“Today was a very tough day. I took some time, but I adjusted to it slowly. The completely clear skies today resulted in a very different light from the previous days and it was at times difficult to read the terrain properly.”

In the car’s category, Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah continued along his relentless path towards a second triumph.

While Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen won the 258km ADNOC stage alongside French co-driver Michel Perin in a Mini All4Racing, Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel were second fastest in a Toyota Hilux as they increased their overall lead to 28 mins 08 secs.

Lying second overnight and chasing a third successive Desert Challenge victory, Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov saw their hopes buried among the dunes of the Western Region of Al Gharbia when their Mini was halted by mechanical problems.

Al-Attiyah, who won the Desert Challenge title in 2008, said: “It wasn’t easy at all. We did some of this stage Wednesday but most was completely new. We didn’t take risks – we don’t want to make mistakes now.  I’m really happy to finish and looking forward to tomorrow.”

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