Featuring a 244km long timed special in the dunes of the Liwa Desert, Wednesday’s stage four of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was no walk in the park. The eighth rider to take the start this morning, FR 450 Rally mounted Quintanilla made the best of his advantageous position to make up for the time lost during a tough stage three yesterday.
Topping two out of four stages contested so far in the United Arab Emirates, Quintanilla has put himself in the best possible position ahead of tomorrow’s final stage. Leading the overall by a little more than six minutes to Sam Sunderland and close to 10 minutes to Kevin Benavides, Pablo will look to wrap up his week-long adventure in the massive dunes of the UAE with the overall victory tomorrow.
Featuring a total of 356km, the fifth and final stage at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge includes a 218km long timed special.
Pablo Quintanilla: “Everything is going according to plan and I’m happy about it. Today I had a really good start position and took full advantage of it. It’s always difficult to ride fast in the dunes and the off-piste sections, but I did my best to remain focused and avoid mistakes. I made some good passes today and had a good pace from start to finish. I’m happy I got the stage victory but most importantly I am satisfied I made up some good time in the overall. I have a small but decent gap in the lead going into tomorrow’s final stage. I’m happy to be in this position and I will do my best to bring home the overall victory at this rally. It would be the best possible way to start the new season.”
After a difficult stage three, Toby Price set off 11th in the morning. The Australian, with plenty of tracks already laid down in the desert ahead of him, soon made his way through the field. Enjoying a good consistent pace despite still nursing a small injury from his crash earlier in the rally, Price was able to claw back some time on the competitors in front.
Arriving at the finish in second place, the 2016 Dakar Champion was pleased with his result and now looks ahead to tomorrow’s final stage.
Toby Price: “The bike performed really well today. I’m still suffering a little from my crash on Monday, but I managed to ride a good stage today. My back is stiff and sore and there are a lot of big dips in between dunes here that cause the bikes to bottom out. I am losing some time there because I have to take them a bit steady. All-in-all I’m happy, looking forward to the final stage and completing the rally tomorrow.”
Matthias Walkner was second onto the stage at dawn, but soon caught up with team-mate Sunderland following the Brit’s crash at the 10-kilometre marker. The pair ended up riding together with Walkner taking the lead due to Sam damaging his GPS. Keeping up a good pace, the KTM pairing completed the stage with Walkner finishing eighth and Sunderland one place behind in ninth.
Matthias Walkner: “That was a really tough stage for me today. Sam opened the stage, but after 10km he had a crash and I had to take the lead. It was really scary to navigate through all of the blind crests and drop-offs in the dunes. Towards the end we had been caught by a number of other riders and arrived at the finish in a group of six or seven. Riding like that creates a lot of dust, and I have started to get a lot of pain in my shoulder now too, so that made things even more difficult. We have a mass-start for tomorrow’s final stage so it will be tricky to make up any time on the guys in front. My plan is to keep to a good pace and get to the finish safely.”
Sam Sunderland’s ninth place was enough to retain second overall in the provisional overall standings. Entering tomorrow’s final stage, the 2017 Dakar Champion is looking for a consistent pace that will see him wrap up the event in the United Arab Emirates on a high note.
Sam Sunderland: “It was a disappointing day for me today. I had a crash right at the beginning of the stage and although I was lucky to come out of it relatively unhurt, it did end up costing me precious time and slowed me down for the rest of the special. Opening the stage is never easy but my plan was to try to find a good rhythm and stick to it. Unfortunately, there was a really blind drop-off on one of the dunes and I didn’t see it until the last minute. I came off the bike and damaged the navigation equipment, hurt my knee a little and split my camelback. I ended up riding the remaining 235km with no GPS and no water. All I can do now is learn from my mistake and move on. Tomorrow is a mass-start day so I’ll take it easy, get to the finish and hopefully hold on to second overall.”
Thursday’s stage five, the final of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, will cover a total of 356.06km, 218.57km of which will be timed special. Riders will finish at the famous Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Provisional Results Stage Four
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:16:53
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:19:28 +2:35
3. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:22:35 +5:42
4. José Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 3:23:36 +6:43
5. Michael Metge (FRA), Honda, 3:23:41 +6:48
8. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:31:14 +14:21
9. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:34:04 +17:11
10. David McBride (GBR), KTM, 3:51:02 +34:09
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 14:03:06
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 14:09:23 +6:17
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 14:13:05 +9:59
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 14:14:07 +11:01
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 14:21:05 +17:59
8. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 14:33:30 +30:24
10. David McBride (GBR), KTM, 16:10:21 +2:07:15