(clockwise) Kuba Przygonski, Cyril Despres, Sam Sunderland and Toby Price © Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool
Friday, March 30
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
After six days of breathtaking action at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge the relief of those crossing the finish line was clear to see. Faced with over 1,000 kilometres of timed racing across the Liwa Desert it took monumental effort from every competitor who made it back to the Yas Marina Circuit safely.
Celebrating victory in the car category this weekend are the Czech duo of driver Martin Prokop and co-driver David Pabiska after impressing over the sand. Prokop’s Ford was run close by the MINI of Polish racer Kuba Przygonski who had Tom Colsoul of Belgium giving him pace notes.
The results leaves Prokop and Przygonski tied for the lead of the 2018 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup with eight of the 11 rounds of the championship still to be raced.
“It was a good fight between us and Prokop and we had chances to catch them over the stages.” – Kuba Przygonski
Increasingly showing his class as the week worn on was five-time Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge bike race winner Cyril Despres. The Frenchman, competing in the car race for the first time, climbed to fourth overall with a stage win on the last day of competition alongside Swiss navigator Steve Ravussin.
“I learned a lot about driving four wheels across the desert, it’s very different to riding a motorbike across the dunes.” – Cyril Despres
Elsewhere on four wheels we saw Luc Alphand and Andreas Schultz get their buggy back on pace after some gearbox trouble in the dunes. The French driver was making a return to competitive offroad racing after a break of nearly a decade and alongside his German co-driver had a memorable week in the desert.
While points were handed out for the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup this contest also marked the start of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for the bikers. This ensured a star-studded line-up of riders made the trip to Abu Dhabi.
It was Chilean biker Pablo Quintanilla who got his season off to the best possible start as the Husqvarna rider led home the three Dakar Rally winners of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team.
Britain’s Sam Sunderland was disappointed not to get his hands on the victory. However, considering he retired from the Dakar with injury just a couple of months ago, a runners-up result here is a remarkable achievement.
“Second overall, especially after my crash at the Dakar is a really good result. It has felt great to be back on my bike and racing again.” – Sam Sunderland
Read all about Sam Sunderland’s road to recovery right here.
Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner narrowly missed out on the podium by a single minute as he finished fourth overall. The Austrian biker, who is the reigning Dakar champion, charged on the final stage to record the fastest time of the day.
“The final day’s racing has been really fun – I’m happy to take the stage win after such a good fight.” – Matthias Walkner
The third KTM Factory rider in Abu Dhabi, Australia’s Toby Price, finished seventh overall and won many new fans following his sporting behaviour during the race. When Emirati biker Mohammed Al Balooshi suffered a crash on the sands it was Price who stopped to make sure he could be rescued to safety before continuing with the rally.
“I came across Balooshi crashed out on the track. Rider safety is our main priority so I stopped to help him. I wish him all the best and quick recovery.” – Toby Price
Find all clips, still images, and stories covering the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge here.
1. Martin Prokop / David Pabiska (CZE / CZE) / Ford F-150 Evo 17:06:57
2. Jakub Przygonski / Tom Colsoul (POL / BEL) / Mini John Cooper 17:20:28
3. Vladimir Vasilyev / K. Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / Mini Cooper Countryman 17:53:27
4. Cyril Despres / Steve Ravussin (FRA / CHE) Buggy Ford 2WD 18:38:36
5. Stephan Schott / Paulo Fiuza (DEU / POR) / Mini John Cooper 20:24:16
6. Khaled AlFeraihi / Osama Alsanad (SAU / SAU) / Nissan Patrol Pick Up 21:02:46
7. Jose-Luis Pena Campo / Rafel Tornabell (ESP / ESP) / Polaris RZR 1000 22:11:03
8. Christopher Rosenberger / Nicola Bleicher (AUT / DEU) / Mini All4 Racing 22:22:46
9. Vincent Gonzalez / Stephane Duple (CHE / FRA) / Polaris RZR 1000 23:09:47
10. Patrice Garrouste / Loic Minaudier (FRA / FRA) / Polaris RZR 1000 23:12:21
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) / Husqvarna 450 16:51:11
2. Sam Sunderland (ARE) / KTM 450 16:56:22
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 16:59:45
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT) / KTM 450 17:00:47
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR) / Honda CRF 450 17:09:46
6. Ricky Brabec (USA) / Honda CRF 450 17:11:57
7. Toby Price (AUS) / KTM 450 17:20:56
8. Jose Ignacio Cornejo F (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 17:21:16
9. Michael Metge (FRA) / Honda CRF 450 17:29:30
10. Benjamin Melot (ZAF) / KTM 450 Rally 19:06:48
Kuba Przygonski: “I’m really happy and it’s a great rally. It was a good fight between us and Martin (Prokop) and we had a chance to catch them over the stages. But a few mistakes on our part meant we couldn’t make the time back. Martin has been really great over the past few days so congratulations to him.”
Cyril Despres: “Today was fun. Flat sections suit this car – good fast tracks. I’m feeling okay and glad to be back in the Desert Challenge and trying something different. I learned a lot about driving four wheels across the desert – very different to riding a motorbike across the dunes.”
Sam Sunderland: “Second overall, especially after my crash at the Dakar is a really good result. It has felt great to be back on my bike and racing again. I’m a little disappointed with how the rally has gone, with no prologue to set the starting order it was always going to be difficult to stay ahead. The mass-start today went well but riding in such a big group can be dangerous so I just tried to stay out of trouble and not make any mistakes. The bike and the team have been perfect throughout the rally, and apart from my mistake on yesterday’s stage my riding and navigation have been good. It’s encouraging and so I look forward to the next race and I’ll try to go one better.”
Matthias Walkner: “The final day’s racing has been really fun – I’m happy to take the stage win after such a good fight. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make up enough time to get onto the podium today, but in general the rally has gone really well. The mass-start this morning had everyone riding together for the first 100km, there was a lot of dust and it was hard to pull away. On the second half of the stage it opened up a lot and I was able to get out in front. Kevin Benavides and myself had a great battle over the last 50km, riding together and swapping the lead many times. I managed to cross the line three metres or so ahead but of course it wasn’t enough to steal third overall. I came into the rally hoping for a top-five, so fourth overall whilst feeling very comfortable on the bike is not a bad result at all. Things look good for the rest of the year.”
Toby Price: “I’m happy with how the day went today. Overall, seventh at the end of the rally is not where I had planned to finish, but after my crash earlier in the week I am glad to be here at the finish in one piece. The bike has been perfect throughout the rally and even with the mass start today I was able to gain a little time and move up one spot in the overall. For now, I plan to rest a little and then prepare for the next rally in Morocco. If I can learn a little from my mistakes and stay on two-wheels everything should be good.”