Spaniard Nani Roma set the tone for the defence of his Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title by going fastest in the 2km super special stage at the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday.
Roma, behind the wheel of a MINI All4Racing clocked a time of 2mins 05.49secs while Brazilian Reinaldo Varela, driving a Toyota Hilux, was classified second with a time of 2mins 05.51secs.
Poland’s Marek Dabrowski was third fastest on the timesheet driving a Toyota Hilux, 00.53secs behind Varela while Russian Vladimir Vasilyev and Erik Van Loon of the Netherlands finished the short test in fourth and fifth respectively, both driving MINI All4Racings.
Poland’s Adam Malysz (Toyota Hilux), Kazakh Bauyrzhan Issabayev (MINI), Czech Miroslav Zapletal (Hummer H3 Evo), and Kazakhs Aidyn Rakhimbayev (MINI) and Yuriy Sazonov (Hummer) rounded off the top ten.
The fastest among the UAE drivers was Nabil Al Shamsi in a Nissan Patrol, clocking 2mins 20.66secs while Yahya Al Helei (Nissan Pickup) and Khalid Al Jafla (Chevrolet Silverado) completed the top three amongst the Emiratis.
The Dubai-based couple, Ian and Sheila Barker, completed the test in a respectable 24th from the 41 cars that started yesterday. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, who currently leads the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup for cars after winning the first two rounds in Russia and Italy, opened his challenge in the third round in Abu Dhabi by classifying 15th, while his compatriot Ahmed Al Shegawi finished 18th.
Having collected full points in Russia and Italy, Al Rajhi now has 60 points against 33 for secondplaced Vasilyev and 27 points for third-placed Boris Gadasin of Russia.
The Saudi driver will therefore be looking forward to taking home maximum points from Abu Dhabi and consolidating his position at the top ahead of the fourth round, the Sealine Cross Country Rally in Qatar on April 20.
The Cross Country Rally World Cup for cars comprises of ten rounds, with Portugal hosting the last leg on October 30.
The event, in its 24th year, also serves as the first round of the FIM Cross Country World Championship for bikes and quads and Spain’s Joan Bort Barreda went fastest on his Honda 450 CRF to top the timesheets in the two-wheel class.
UAE-based Briton Sam Sunderland was second, while defending champion Marc Coma rounded off the top three.
Beginning on Sunday, the next three days will feature the ADNOC (269km), Qasr Al Sarab (256km) and Nissan Patrol (239km) special stages, before the 244km Abu Dhabi Aviation stage takes the survivors back to the finish on Yas Island on April 10.
1. Nani Roma (ESP) 2min – 05.49sec
2. Reinaldo Varela (BRA) – 2:05.51
3. Marek Dabrowski (POL) – 2:06.02
4. Vladimir Vailyev (RUS) – 2:08.13
5. Erik Van Loon (NED) – 2:08.22
6. Adam Malysz (POL) – 2:08.61
7. Bauyrzhan Issabayev (KAZ) – 2:13.58
8. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE) – 2:14.17
9. Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ) – 2:14.42
10. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ) – 2:15.39
1. Joan Barreda Bort (SPA) – 2:04:08
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR) – 2:05.90
3. Marc Coma (SPA) – 2:06.36
4. Jordi Viladoms (SPA) – 2:06.84
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR) – 2:06.96
6. Helder Rodrigues (POR) – 2:08.24
7. Jakub Przygonski (POL) – 2:10.86
8. Matyas Somfai (HUN) – 2:14.56
9. Aleksei Nikishkin (RUS) – 2:14.60
10. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) – 2:16.26
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