Action in the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan reached an early conclusion today after the heavy sandstorm sweeping the UAE prevented the event’s final competitive section from being run.
The 234km Abu Dhabi Aviation Special Stage five was cancelled due to poor visibility. At times it was down to less than 100 metres in places, which meant that air support for the rally was not possible.
The 89 surviving competitors – 42 cars & buggies, 47 bikes & quads – which were due to complete the stage, instead travelled on a road section to Yas Marina Circuit where the rally’s official podium finish was later cancelled because of the adverse weather.
The finishing positions following yesterday’s Nissan Patrol SS4 effectively became the final results, except for Nasser Al Attiyah who was denied his second victory in the event after being disqualified.
— AD Desert Challenge (@AD_DsrtChallnG) April 2, 2015
There was a double success for the UAE, with Ahmed Al Fahim taking the T3 buggies title by finishing ninth overall in a Polaris and fellow-Emirati Mansour Al Helei capturing the T2 production class cars title by finishing 13th in his Nissan Patrol.
Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa won the Desert Challenge quads crown for the second time in three years on a Yamaha Raptor.
“It would have been very dangerous for the competitors to go ahead with the stage and there was no visibility to get the Abu Dhabi Aviation helicopters into the air to provide vital safety cover,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.
“My decision to cancel the stage was based purely on competitor safety. We are trusted by all competitors to look after them and the decision was supported by all the drivers and riders and the teams.”
The Desert Challenge, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region, is the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.
2008 cars champion Al Attiyah, partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in his Mini All4 Racing, were disqualified for a suspension travel irregularity following post-event scrutinising by the FIA.
When your away from home racing for weeks in the desert some times it can be lonely but not with this group dudes! pic.twitter.com/b5NK7e7bae
— Sam Sunderland (@Sundersam) April 2, 2015
Russia’s defending champion Vladimir Vasilyev, partnered by Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Mini, was therefore declared winner in the cars category.
In the battle of the bikes, Coma won by 11 mins 55secs from his KTM team-mate, Dubai-based Sam Sunderland, while the UAE’s multiple Arab moto cross champion, Mohammed Al Balooshi, finished sixth overall in a world-class field.
Qatari Abu Issa captured the quads title by 24mins 43secs from last year’s Desert Challenge quads winner and reigning world champion Rafal Sonik of Poland.
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