The sands show no mercy at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as top ranked rally-raid contenders fall into difficulty

01.03.2023: With three stages down at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and two days of racing remaining, there’s drama in the dunes and in the bivouac. Stage Three brought another huge twist to the heavyweight car contest between Nasser Al-Attiyah and Sébastien Lo

   


With three stages down at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and two days of racing remaining, there’s drama in the dunes and in the bivouac. Stage Three brought another huge twist to the heavyweight car contest between Nasser Al-Attiyah and Sébastien Loeb.



2023 Dakar Rally winner Al-Attiyah won yesterday’s Stage Two to open a commanding lead in Abu Dhabi. The Qatari racer, co-driver Mathieu Baumel and their Toyota Hilux GR DKR T1+ were significantly increasing this lead before they suffered a crash 10 kilometres from the end of Stage Three. The rear bodywork, roof and windscreen were ripped off the Hilux as a result of the incident.



Remarkably, Al-Attiyah was still able to bring his car over the finish line as stage winner! However, the FIA officials who inspected his vehicle found that it was no longer in the proper condition to take the start of Stage Four due to serious damage to its rollcage. The car race leaders are therefore out of the rally.




“We really tried to do everything we could to have the car ready for tomorrow, but in the end the damage to the rollcage means Nasser and Mathieu must abandon the race.” – Alain Dujardyn, Toyota Gazoo Racing W2RC Team Principal
 


Things have not been much smoother for Al-Attiyah’s rival Loeb during Round Two of the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship. Nine-time WRC winner Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin were unable to complete Stage One in Abu Dhabi due to a cooling hose problem on their BRX Prodrive Hunter. Loeb has since rejoined the rally and now has over 500 kilometres left to race in Abu Dhabi – he's out to hoover up as many championship points as he can.




“We’ve suffered a lot of penalties and it means that my situation in the rally is really bad. The only thing we can do now is try to score some stage times to get some points for the championship.” – Sébastien Loeb



Holding top spot in the T3 category of the ADDC after three stages is 20-year-old Seth Quintero. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich driver and his navigator Dennis Zenz have given their Can-Am a cushion of nearly 30 minutes at the front of the race.



“We got first on the prologue and Stage One and we’ve been on the podium on the last two stages. We’re having fun and staying consistent.” – Seth Quintero



Second overall in the T3 race are Dakar champions Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin. The third Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crew of Mitch Guthrie Jr./Kellon Walch took the win on Stage Three in their MCE5 vehicle.



“It looks like we got the stage win! It was another really long day. It’s gruelling out there, all these crazy dunes and really technical driving. It’s also really hot out here so it’s really demanding on the car and the body.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.



Second on Stage Three in the T3 class were Cristina Gutiérrez and co-driver Pablo Moreno of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team. The all-Spanish pair are now fifth overall and targeting the final podium spots when the ADDC wraps up this Friday.



Gutiérrez’s fellow Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team driver Rokas Baciuška alongside navigator Oriol Vidal continues to stay in control of the T4 race, his overall lead now stands at close to 20 minutes.



“We had to be careful today because the dunes were tricky. It’s easy for the car to roll on these broken dunes. My co-driver Oriol did a great job finding the way today.” – Rokas Baciuška



Stage Three saw the retirement of Mattias Ekström and co-driver Emil Bergkvist from the T3 race due to a broken engine suffered 81 kilometres into the stage.



A stage win for Toby Price of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing lifts him to third overall in the bike race at the conclusion of Stage Three. The 2023 Dakar runner-up is now less than three minutes behind race leader Adrien Van Beveren.



“We’ve got a stage win today so we’re really happy with that. It’s been a good day and now let’s bring on day four!” – Toby Price



UAE biker Mohammed Balooshi is giving local fans plenty to cheer at the ADDC, the KTM rider is 15th overall with two days of racing left to go in Abu Dhabi.



Tomorrow’s Stage Four is the longest day of racing at this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with 310 kilometres for the convoy to complete. Then on Friday the fifth and final stage at the rally will be contested over a further 208 kilometres before the eventual winners receive their prizes and the World Rally-Raid Championship points are added up.
 
    



Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Provisional Standings following Stage Three


T1

1. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 10:39:00
2. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA 11:06:03
3. M. PROKOP (CZE) FORD 11:15:44



T3

1. S. QUINTERO (USA) CAN-AM 11:32:57
2. A. JONES (USA) CAN-AM 12:00:03
3. H. GARCES ECHEVERRIA (CHL) CAN-AM 12:09:27


T4

1. R. BACIUSKA (LTU) CAN-AM 11:50:47
2. P. NAVARRO (ESP) CAN-AM 12:08:51
3. M. AL HELEI (ARE) CAN-AM 12:09:08



Bike

1. ADRIEN VAN BEVEREN (FRA) HONDA 10:55:02
2. PABLO QUINTANILLA (CHL) HONDA 10:55:45
3. TOBY PRICE (AUS) KTM 10:57:58

    



QUOTES




Alain Dujardyn, Toyota Gazoo Racing W2RC Team Principal:
“Today we collected the stage win on Stage Three. An amazing achievement and also a very unusual situation because Nasser and Mathieu rolled 10 kilometres from the finish of the stage.

The car landed back on its four wheels and they managed to complete the stage and win the stage! Regretfully the impact on the chassis and the rollcage was too big. We really tried to do everything we could to have the car ready for tomorrow, but in the end the damage to the rollcage means Nasser and Mathieu must abandon the race.”
 




Sébastien Loeb:
“Today my stage was OK. No problems, no mistakes and a good rhythm. Our big trouble came on the first day and we lost a lot of time then. We had to retire from the stage and then change the engine. This gave us a lot of penalties and means that my situation in the rally is really bad. The only thing we can do now is try to score some stage times to get some points for the championship.”



Seth Quintero: “Stage three was a pretty slow one for us, I think we ended up third overall. What we did do was extend our overall lead so that’s awesome. We’ve got nearly a 30 minute lead now. We got first on the prologue and Stage One and we’ve been on the podium on the last two stages. We’re having fun and staying consistent. The whole team is killing it!”



Austin Jone
s: “Day three here in Abu Dhabi was not good for us, we had a lot of issues with the car. We had to stop a few times to get out and try and fix things. It was all about mitigating the damage and not getting stuck out there. We’re still in second overall so it’s not too bad.”



Mitch Guthrie Jr
.: “It looks like we got the stage win! It was another really long day. It’s gruelling out there, all these crazy dunes and really technical driving. It’s also really hot out here so it’s really demanding on the car and the body. Now it’s onto Stage Four tomorrow. An issue on Stage One took us out of the running for the overall, but now we’ve had two good days back-to-back.”



Cristina Gutiérrez: “Today was a very nice day for us with a second place result. This was the first day at this rally that we could run witho
ut problems. We had a good pace throughout the entire stage.”



Rokas Baciuška
: “We had to be careful today because the dunes were tricky. It’s easy for the car to roll on these broken dunes. My co-driver Oriol did a great job finding the way today. Tomorrow will be an important day at this rally. We will race over 300 kilometres and it will be the longest day at this rally.”



Toby Price
: “We’ve got a stage win today so we’re really happy with that. There were a few issues for the race organisers to sort out. When I got back to the bivouac I was fifth, then second and now first! It’s been a good day and now let’s bring on day four!”




Mohammed Baloosh
i: “I’m happy to finish Stage Three. It was a better performance than the previous two days. It has been a stressful opening to this rally, but today felt much better.”

    

    
- Christine FIAL -  photos Red Bull



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01.03.2023 / MaP

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