Dubai-based Brit Sam Sunderland dominated on the bikes, winning today´s (Tuesday) SS02 "Al Ain Water" by just over six minutes from KTM team-mate Matthias Walkner to take a 7:34 mins overall lead from the Austrian rider who succeeded him as Dakar Rally champion just over two months ago. Argentinian Kevin Benavides on a Honda was third fastest today to finish the leg another 2:14 mins further adrift, just ahead of overnight leader Pablo Quintanilla in fourth on his Husqvarna. Honda riders Paulo Goncalves from Portugal and American Ricky Brabec completed the top six.
In the battle of the bikes, Quintanilla clearly had a tough time opening the stage, and by the first checkpoint his 1:08 minutes overnight lead had virtually been wiped out by Sunderland who immediately began pulling away. It was the most emphatic way to show that he has fully recovered after injuring his back in Peru while defending his Dakar Rally title in January.
Local Hero Al Balooshi out after accident but luckily not seriously injured
Sunderland finished the Al Ain Water stage to say: "It was a very good day. We benefitted from the earlier start which made it easier to read the tracks. A really good stage and I’m confident I can hold my position."
Benavides said: "That was a very good day’s racing and I feel very confident today. The dunes were much better and with the earlier start it made for an easier ride with the lower temperature."
Australian KTM-rider Toby Price, who dropped down the field 24 hours earlier with a broken fuel pump, said: "For me I had a good day, but right near the end Balooshi fell off his bike so I stopped to make sure he was okay and to wait for the helicopter to pick him up. Rider safety is so important and I’d happily throw a race to make sure a rider is okay."
The rally ended abruptly for top UAE rider Mohammed Al Balooshi who had to be transferred by helicopter to hospital for a scan after crashing on the stage. The recent Dubai International Baja winner was clearly shaken, but not seriously injured.
Bikes Stage Provisional positions SS03 Al Ain Water Stage
01) Sunderland, Sam (ARE) I KTM I 03:29:52 I 00:00:00
02) Walkner, Matthias (AUT) I KTM I 03:35:55 I 00:06:03
03) Benavides, Kevin (ARG) I Honda I 03:38:53 I 00:09:01
04) Brabec, Ricky (USA) I Honda I 03:39:27 I 00:09:35
05) Goncalves, Paulo (POR) I Honda I 03:39:46 I 00:09:54
06) Cornejo Florimo, Jose I. (CHL) I Honda I 03:41:21 I 00:11:29
07) Metge, Michael (FRA) I Honda I 03:41:28 I 00:11:36
08) Quintanilla, Pablo (CHL) I Husqvarna I 03:41:54 I 00:12:02
09) Giemza, Maciej (POL) I KTM I 03:58:32 I 00:28:40
10) McBride, David (ARE) I KTM I 04:05:30 I 00:28:40
Bikes Overall Provisional positions after SS03 Al Ain Water Stage
01) Sunderland, Sam (ARE) I KTM I 10:35:19 I 00:00:00
02) Walkner, Matthias (AUT) I KTM I 10:42:53 I 00:07:34
03) Benavides, Kevin (ARG) I Honda I 10:45:07 I 00:09:48
04) Quintanilla, Pablo (CHL) I Husqvarna I 10:46:13 I 00:10:54
05) Brabec, Ricky (USA) I Honda I 10:57:56 I 00:22:37
06) Goncalves, Paulo (POR) I Honda I 10:58:30 I 00:23:11
07) Cornejo Florimo, Jose I. (CHL) I Honda I 11:08:31 I 00:33:12
08) Price, toby (AUS) I KTM I 11:14:02 I 00:38:43
09) Metge, Michael (FRA) I Honda I 11:16:56 I 00:41:37
10) McBride, David (ARE) I KTM I 12:19:19 I 01:44:00
Photos: ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE
ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE
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