French driver Luc Alphand thought he had taken the lead in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge but dropped to second place after collecting a two minute time penalty for exceeding the speed limit in a restricted area.
That has saw Poland’s Jakub Przygonski take the lead at the end of the first leg, whlie Toby Price is top in the bikes category.
Partnered by German co-driver Andreas Schultz in a Buggy Ford 2WD, Alphand had claimed the opening 276 km Yas Marina Circuit Stage by 1 min, 19.8 secs from the recent Dubai International Baja winners with Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul in Mini John Cooper.
But Alphand’s error means Przygonski will now start the second stage in first place.
Ending the first leg in third place in the cars category another 1 min 48.7secs away were Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan accompanied by Russia’s Aleksei Kuzmich in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive.
The UAE’s defending champion, Khalid Al Qassimi, finished the day in fourth place, just under nine minutes off the lead alongside French co-driver Xavier Panseri in their Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR.
Czechs Martin Prokop and Jan Tomanek in a Ford F-150 Evo and two-times Desert Challenge champions Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Mini Cooper rounded off the top six, while Emiratis Khalid Al Jafla and Ahmad Malik in a Nissan Trophy Truck finished the day in 10th.
Price, who captured the Desert Challenge title in 2016, produced an impeccable display to take the stage by 2 mins 51 secs from Dubai-based defending champion Sam Sunderland, with reigning Dakar Rally winner Matthias Walkner of Austria completing a KTM 1-2-3 another 4 mins 29 secs away.
Argentinian Kevin Benavides on a Honda, Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla riding a Husqvarna and American Ricky Brabec on another Honda completed the top six.
With the world’s top cross country rally stars setting a tremendous pace up front, leading UAE rider Mohammed Al Balooshi, winner of the recent Dubai International Baja, finished the leg in ninth place.
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