MOTOCROSSTIME - NEWS FROM 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship

SAM SUNDERLAND WINS DEMANDING STAGE THREE OF 2018 ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE

Stage three of the 2018 Desert Challenge saw riders cover numerous large sand dunes in the Liwa Desert, just south of Abu Dhabi. Comprised of deep, soft sand and steep drop-offs, the first half of the stage rewarded careful navigation and the ability to read the terrain. The 281.38km timed special proved to be one of the toughest of the rally so far in the heat of the United Arab Emirates sun.

Setting off fifth this morning, Sam Sunderland immediately pushed to catch the four riders in front of him. The Brit’s pace placed him first at every waypoint through the timed special and it wasn’t long until he caught the front-runners. After catching team-mate Matthias Walkner just after the refuelling stop, the pair raced on together ultimately claiming the top-two positions come the finish. Sunderland now leads the provisional overall standings by over seven minutes.

Sam Sunderland: “That was another long, hot day in the sand for the bike and my body. I am feeling good though and I’m really happy to win the stage and put some time between myself and the others. My start position helped a lot today, I was able to push right from the start and chase down the guys in front. Obviously, it means I will be opening the stage tomorrow, but we still have two days of riding left. I’ll continue to push on and we’ll see what happens at the end of the rally.” 

Placing second today, 2018 Dakar Champion Matthias Walkner rode an excellent stage three. Maintaining a fast and consistent pace, the Austrian covered the 281km stage in just over three-an-a-half hours of riding – enough to move him up to second overall in the standings, over two-minutes ahead of third-placed Kevin Benavides. Matthias Walkner - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert ChallengeMatthias Walkner: “Today went well for me. The stage covered some deep sand and the speed through the dunes was not so fast so we chose a different tyre and it performed really well. I managed to find a good rhythm and was able to keep to that pace for most of the day. Sam caught me in the second half of the special so we ended up riding together and were able to push on a little more. We caught the other guys in front around kilometre 220 and so I’m really happy to take second position for the day. I have a little pain in my shoulder, but I’ll rest up now and then we will prepare for tomorrow.”

Following his crash on yesterday’s stage two, Toby Price did his best to conserve energy today, whilst keeping to a good speed through the desert. His pace placed him within the top-five at many of the early waypoints. After stopping to help a fellow rider, the 2016 Desert Challenge winner eventually placed 11th, with the time lost being credited to him at the finish. Price now lies eighth in the overall standings. Toby Price - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert ChallengeToby Price: “The stage was good today, I got through the first half feeling really comfortable on the bike and setting a good pace through the steep dunes. I am suffering a little after the crash I had yesterday so I’m certainly not riding at 100%, but all-in-all things are going well. On the second half of the stage Balooshi had a crash in front of me and I stayed with him for a little while to assist. Luckily, he is going to be ok and is not too badly hurt. I’ll take the last two days as they come and just try to conserve myself and get to the finish so I can let my body recover.” 


Kevin Benavides keeps options open in Abu Dhabi

Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides remains on the provisional podium of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after day three where he opened the track for much of the special stage.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, reached its halfway point today with the Monster Energy Honda Team still firmly in the battle. In this third of five stages, riders came up against more varied sections of the Liwa Desert: a more technical section at the beginning with huge dunes, many of them cut, before moving on to another much swifter section. The front riders eventually bunched into a group of four who rode the remainder of the stage together.Kevin-Benavides-stage-3-abu-dhabi-2018

Kevin Benavides, who started second today, was able to hunt down the rider who opened the course, managing to pull ahead of the field over several kilometres, before being reached by the other riders. Benavides eventually finished third and holds third position in the overall standings.

American Ricky Brabec decided to up the ante today and try to increase speed in spite of the dangerous cut dunes of the Liwa. Brabec posted fourth place, half a minute adrift of his team-mate, but ahead of Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves who had suffered a minor fall whilst taking a jump. The rider got stuck briefly in a dune, dropping some time in the process.

Also improving significantly in terms of speed and desert navigation reading were José Ignacio Cornejo and Michael Metge, sixth and seventh on the day. Both had a complication-free stage.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, sees the penultimate day of this Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Riders look forward to a 372.55 kilometre stage including 244.5 km against the clock.

Kevin Benavides 2 ” I felt good. I went out to push hard and I was able to catch the rider who started first and then I had to open the track for quite some time. I felt very confident on the bike in this special desert. The bike has given zero problems. We have to keep on like this, pushing hard over the two remaining days of racing and see how things turn out in the end.”

Stage 3 Results

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam 5 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 3:29’52
2 WALKNER Matthias 3 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +6’03
3 BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +9’01
4 BRABEC Ricky 11 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +9’35
5 GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +9’54
6 CORNEJO José Ignacio 14 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +11’29
7 METGE Michael 12 FRA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +11’36
8 QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +12’02
9 GIEMZA Maciej 10 POL KTM Orlen Rally Team KTM +28’40
10 MCBRIDE David 8 GBR Vendetta Racing UAE KTM +35’38

 

Provisional Standings after Stage 3

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam 5 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 10:35’19
2 WALKNER Matthias 3 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +7’34
3 BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +9’48
4 QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +10’54
5 GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +22’11
6 BRABEC Ricky 11 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +22’37
7 CORNEJO José Ignacio 14 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +33’12
8 PRICE Toby 6 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +38’43
9 METGE Michael 12 FRA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +39’37
10 MCBRIDE David 8 GBR Vendetta Racing UAE KTM +1:44’00