Friday, April 7
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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There was drama at every turn of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as reigning Dakar champion Sam Sunderland won on two wheels while Nasser Al-Attiyah rolled out of the car race lead on the final stage. The event which served as the opening round of the 2017 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship and the third round of the 2017 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup is sure to live long in the memories of rally-raid fans around the globe.
Defending car category champion Al-Attiyah put himself in control of the rally on day one as he clocked the fastest time on the short super special stage at the Al-Forsan International Sports Resort. Nasser and co-driver Mathieu Baumel then extended their advantage over the chasing pack when the ADDC headed out into the desert.
The Qatari driver and his French co-driver won the following four stages in impressive fashion to give themselves a lead of nearly two hours over their closest rival. But on the final stage disaster struck for Al-Attiyah and Baumel as they crashed their Toyota Hilux and were forced to retire from the contest.
With Al-Attiyah out of the race the highest placed Qatari driver in the general rankings turned out to be Mohamed Abu Issa who parked his MINI on the final podium in third overall.
There were also plenty of twists and turns in the bike race with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team at the heart of the action. Current Dakar champion Sunderland got his ADDC off to the perfect start with a stage win on the opening day and backed it up with the fastest time on the following day’s desert stage.
The British rider then surrendered his lead to his Austria team-mate Matthias Walkner on stage three as a tense battle began to emerge.
Sunderland bounced back with stage wins on days four and six to claim the overall win with fellow KTM riders Walkner, Antoine Méo of France and Mohammed Balooshi of the UAE finishing third, sixth and seventh respectively.
Ready To Race – KTM Goes MotoGP is a brand new documentary available to watch now on Red Bull TV.
All our News Cuts, Action Clips and Images for editorial use from the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge can be found here: www.redbullcontentpool.com.
Mohamed Abu Issa: “It’s my first year in the Cross-County Rally World Cup for cars and earlier this year I raced a car for the first time at the Dakar Rally. In total this was only my third rally in a car. I’m extremely happy with how the race went, it’s a great pleasure to be out there racing. Nothing is easy in the car category and I’m learning everything from scratch so to finish on the podium is an amazing experience.”
Sam Sunderland: “It feels really cool to get the win and I’m very happy to get it done. It’s a very strategic race and it can be frustrating when you’re swapping time each day. When you win a stage and start first the next day it’s possible to lose time so you need to manage the race as it goes. It looks easy on paper, but it’s not easy when you’re out there in the dunes. You’ve got to push a lot. I have to say a big thank you to the team who worked hard all week and the bike was working perfectly for me. Now we can celebrate a little bit before moving on to the next race.”
Mohammed Balooshi: “It feels good to get a Top 10 finish at this very special rally. The first few days were extremely hot and tough. As we got closer and closer to the finish I was starting to feel a lot more comfortable out there. I think I have been rewarded with the right result but if it had been a Hollywood ending I would have won here on my return to action. But it’s OK, we live in the real world and it’s a fair result after an enjoyable week.