French "Rally Legend" Luc Alphand stole the show while Czech driver Martin Prokop retained his overnight cars lead in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with his X-raid Mini Buggy. A two-minute penalty had denied him the lead at the end of the first leg and gearbox problems had ruined his victory prospects 24 hours earlier.
From the start today (Tuesday), however, the 2006 champion was flying among the dunes with all the style and confidence that made him the World Cup downhill skiing champion before he switched to motor sport in 1997. Fastest to the first checkpoint, he and German co-driver Andreas Schulz continued to set a pace all of his own throughout the stage.
"It was a perfect day for us. The car was really good, especially in the dunes - we really enjoyed it," said the former Dakar-winner Alphand. "Monday’s gearbox problem started at just the 40k mark. It was the gear selection - we could only go downwards, so we stayed in second gear. But that is what happens with the development of a car."
Partnered by David Pabiska in a Ford F-150 Evo, overnight leader Prokop was third fastest on the day to finish the leg with a reduced advantage of 8 mins 40.2 secs from Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul, second quickest on the day in a Mini John Cooper. "It was a very nice stage today," said Prokop. "We don’t want to say it is easy but we made no mistakes, our navigation was good, we found a good rhythm and had a lot of fun."
The top six overall is completed by Russia’s two-times champions Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in a private X-raid Mini, Frenchman Cyril Despres with Swiss Steve Ravussin in a SMG Two Wheels Drive Buggy and the UAE’s Yahya Al Helei and Khalid Al Kendi in a Nissan Patrol Pickup.
Al Helei, who has not missed an edition of the desert challenge since its start in 1991, said: "That was a good day - I really enjoyed it. We had a few problems with the clutch slipping. But I drove well and had a good time."
Cars Stage Provisional positions SS03 Al Ain Water Stage
01) Alphand / Schulz (FRA/DEU) I X-raid Mini Buggy I 03:36:34 I 00:00:00
02) Przygonski / Colsoul (POL/BEL) I X-raid Mini I 03:40:16 I 00:03:42
03) Prokop / Pabiska (CZE/CZE) I Ford F-150 Evo I 03:42:06 I 00:05:32
04) Vasilyev / Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS) I X-raid Mini I 03:46:47 I 00:10:13
05) Al Helei / Al Kendi (ARE/ARE) I Nissan Patrol Pickup I 04:15:09 I 00:38:35
06) Al Qassimi / Panseri (ARE/FRA) I Peugeot 3008 DKR I 04:16:06 I 00:39:32
07) Schott / Fiuza (DEU/POR) I X-raid Mini I 04:22:25 I 00:45:51
08) Rosenberger / Bleicher (AUT/DEU) I X-raid Mini I 04:27:07 I 00:50:33
09) Alferaihi / Alsanad (SAU/SAU) I Nissan Patrol Pickup I 04:31:08 I 00:54:34
10) Marsh / Greyling (ZAF/ZAF) I Red Lined Nissan I 04:36:27 I 00:59:53
Cars Overall Provisional positions after SS03 Al Ain Water Stage
01) Prokop / Pabiska (CZE/CZE) I Ford F-150 Evo I 11:01:12 I 00:00:00
02) Przygonski / Colsoul (POL/BEL) I X-raid Mini I 11:09:53 I 00:08:40
03) Al Qassimi / Panseri (ARE/FRA) I Peugeot 3008 DKR I 11:47:07 I 00:45:54
04) Vasilyev / Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS) I X-raid Mini I 11:47:43 I 00:46:30
05) Despres / Ravussin (FRA/CHE) I SMG 2Wheels Buggy I 12:38:52 I 01:37:39
06) Al Helei / Al Kendi (ARE/ARE) I Nissan Patrol Pickup I 12:51:56 I 01:50:43
07) Schott / Fiuza (DEU/POR) I X-raid Mini I 13:14:21 I 02:13:08
08) Marsh / Greyling (ZAF/ZAF) I Red Lined Nissan I 13:43:44 I 02:42:31
09) Alferaihi / Alsanad (SAU/SAU) I Nissan Patrol Pickup I 13:47:12 I 02:45:59
10) Amos / Palmeiro (ITA / POR) I X-raid Mini I 14:41:58 I 03:40:45
Photos: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE
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