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. 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 kilometers, before being reached by the other riders. He finished third and holds third position in the overall standings.
"I felt good," the Argentinian said after the stage. "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."
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.
"This third day was good," said Brabec. "We got into the bigger dunes. It was very fast. I don’t like it so much at high speeds in this type of undulation and rolling dunes, where you can’t see what’s on the other side. My body is not tired yet and we are ready to face the next few days."
Paulo Goncalves stated: "Another long stage full of dunes. I felt pretty good at the start, and pushed with a fast pace. I caught the rider in front of me and we rode very quick until I fell at a cut dune and then got stuck. I slightly damaged my shoulder and until the end I had to take it a bit easier. The objective is still to accumulate kilometers... and for the moment we are doing well."
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.
"It was an entertaining stage, more complicated at the beginning and faster in the final part," said Honda´s newest factory member José Ignacio Cornejo. "I was able to set quite a good pace. There was less and less difference with those up in front. I felt better. Now I’m reading the desert with greater confidence and hope to improve in the forthcoming days."
Michael Metge finalized: "Today the special was different. The start was more technical, with navigation in the dunes where you had to really grit your teeth and get into it. I had a good time. The bike went very well and in the second part, I was able to speed up in the dunes, some of them cut dunes, where it is never easy to go fast."
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: Edoardo Bauer, Team
ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE
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