The Yas Marina Circuit played host to five championship rounds over the weekend, with Karim Al Azhari winning back-to-back races in Round 3 of the TRD 86 Cup series.
Al Azhari won Race 1 in 20min 37.786sec, nosing ahead of Sam Tehari by a mere 0.539sec while Ahmed Al Melaihi finished third in a time of 20min 39.706sec.
In Race 2, Al Azhari clocked 20min 03.951sec to be on the top step of the podium with Al Melaihi second in a time of 20min 15.118sec while Shibin Yousef (20min 20.871sec) was classified third.
Al Azhari said: “Today actually produced the toughest racing of the championship; the whole grid is getting stronger.
“I’m the experienced driver on the track and there’s nothing left between me and the competition. I have won all my races so far but I’m not sure how much longer I can hang on.”
Following the weekend’s racing, Al Azhari remains at the top of the TRD 86 Cup leaderboard with three more rounds still to go this season. In the NGK Racing Series, Gulf Petrochem drivers Costas Papantonis and Alex Annivas dominated proceedings.
— Yas Marina Circuit (@ymcofficial) March 13, 2015
In both races on the day, Papantonis was untouchable at the wheel of his SEAT, powering to two victories and setting the fastest lap in the process, while behind him his son Annivas took honours in his Renault Clio to take full points in Class 2 and also claim UAE Clio Cup honours in the process.
Renault Clio driver Will Morrison was third overall and second in Class 2, with Meisam Taheri fourth overall in his Toyota.
In addition to these two championships, the weekend also included the Formula Gulf 1000 as well as the UAE Time Attack and the Radical Middle East Cup rounds.
Ahmad Al Ghanem took top honours in the FG 1000 championship, taking the chequered flag in Race 1 in a time of 22min 10.255sec, beating Yousaf Al Bader by a mere 0.479sec.
Race 2 saw Al Ghanem storm to victory once again in a time of 20min 01.012sec with Al Bader having to contend with the runner-up spot again.
— Yas Marina Circuit (@ymcofficial) March 13, 2015
Meanwhile, the return of UAE Time Attack saw three heats across the A, B, C and D categories.
The fastest group lap times were as follows: In Heat 1 Final (Groups C&D) the fastest lap was recorded by Ahmed Gamal at 1min 10.527sec; Heat 1 Final (Groups A&B) saw Ahmad Arafat clock 1min 5.253sec.
Gamal and Arafat again triumphed in Heat 2 Final, with the former topping Groups C&D, lapping 1min 11.356sec, and Ahmad topping Groups A&B in a time of 1min 5.526sec.
The Heat 3 Finals didn’t provide any surprises, with Groups C&D once more claimed by Gamal in 1min 9.801sec, while Groups A&B were won by Arafat, who was quickest in a time of 1 min 4.293sec.
The Radical Middle East Cup saw Tony Wells clock 45min 54.754sec with Romaine Lutter (46min 12.229sec) in second place. Race 2 produced another win for Wells (45min 50:035sec) and Lutter (46min 00:573sec) again took second place.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, second round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the opening round of FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, takes place from 26 March -2 April, 2015.
Please note the following important information and timings:
An official press conference with Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, founder of the event and President of the ATCUAE, the rally organisers, and leading international drivers and riders, takes place as follows:
Thursday, 26 March, 11:30am
Yas Marina Circuit, Media Centre.
The main Press Office is located at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, South Grand Stand, Gate No.7.
Press Office opening hours are:
Thursday, 26 March 09:00 – 18:00
Friday, 27 March 09:00 – 19:00
Saturday, 28 March 09:00 – 18:00
BIVOUAC PRESS OFFICE
The bivouac is located 2km from Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. Bivouac Press Office opening hours are:
Sunday, 29 March 0800 – 2100 Monday, 30 March 0800 – 2100
Tuesday, 31 March 0800 – 2100 Wednesday, 1 April 0800 – 1800
SUPER SPECIAL SPECTATOR STAGE
The super special spectator stage, a major spectator event, takes place at 3pm on Saturday 28 March at Yas Marina Circuit, North Handling Stage.
The rally finishes at Yas Marina Circuit (End of the Paddock, overlooking the Marina) at 4.30pm, Thursday, 2nd April.
OFFICIAL PRIZE GIVING
Yas Marina Circuit, F1 Paddock, at 8.00pm, Thursday, 2nd April.
This year’s Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al Attiyah and defending champion Vladimir Vasilyev will spearhead a powerful seven-car entry by the all-conquering X-Raid team in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan.
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Argentina’s Orland Terranova and Lucio Alvarez, Dutchman Erik Van Loon, German Stephan Schott and Kazakhstan’s Aidyn Rakhimbayev will drive the five other ALL4 Racing Minis entered by the German-based X-Raid team.
Al Attiyah, who secured his second Dakar Rally title in South America in January, will be aiming to add to his 2008 Desert Challenge victory in partnership with Frenchman Mathieu Baumel in the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.
The Russian paring of Vasilyev and co-driver Konstantin Zhilstov will be returning to the UAE to defend the title they won by more than 47 minutes last April as the Desert Challenge marks its 25th anniversary from 28 March to 2 April.
The X-Raid dominance of cross country rallying is emphasised by the fact that they secured four out of the top five finishing spots in this year’s Dakar Rally, with all of their nine cars entered finishing in the top 22.
They also scored rally wins in Qatar, Spain, Poland, Morocco, Portugal and Peru last year while Vasilyev captured the World Cup drivers’ crown.
“Sven Quandt and his X-Raid organisation are great friends of the Desert Challenge, and we’re delighted to welcome such a powerful entry by the team for our 25th anniversary event,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.
“Their support for the Desert Challenge has grown over the years, emphasing how important the event is to the world’s top cross country rally teams.
Terranova will be partnered by fellow-Argentine Bernardo Graue, Van Loon by compatriot Wouter Rosegaar, Schott by fellow-German Holm Schmidt, Rakhimbayev by Russian co-driver Anton Nikolaev, and Alvarez by Spain’s Gabriel Moiset.
Also part of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes, the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge takes place under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western region.
The event gets under way with a super special spectator stage at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday afternoon, 28 March.
The following day sees the first of five dramatic special stages taking an international procession of cars, bikes and quads on a demanding route among the towering dunes and sabkha plains of the UAE’s Western Region of Al Garbia.