UAE’s Al Helei, Al Qassimi still in the hunt for top places after demanding day in Rub Al Khali 

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 30 March, 2015:  Nasser Al Attiyah grabbed the lead in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED by Nissan today while Dubai-based British rider Sam Sunderland forced his way ahead in the battle of the bikes.

Partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in a Mini All4 Racing, Al Attiyah won the 279km ADNOC Special Stage 2 by 7mins 16 secs from Russia’s defending champion, Vladimir Vasilyev in another Mini, to grab a 4mins 13secs overall advantage.

With Dutchman Erik Van Loon climbing three places to third, UAE local hero Yahya Al Helei, the overnight leader, was seventh fastest on the day to finish the leg in fourth place overall alongside Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi in his Nissan Pick-up.

After his stunning stage win 24 hours earlier, Al Helei was keeping pace with Al Attiyah and Vasilyev on today’s leg before losing time when forced to stop to repair a broken rear roll bar.

Just 34 seconds further away in fifth was fellow-UAE driver Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi in a Toyota Hilux, with Argentina’s Orlando Terranova completing the top six in another Mini.

The ADNOC stage begun with a spectacular mass start for the bikes, with the riders setting off in waves of 15.  While Sunderland briefly became stuck in the giant dunes of the Rub Al Khali, he was still first to finish the stage by three seconds from KTM team-mate Matthias Walkner of Austria. Victory on the stage, however, by 11mins 29 secs, went to Joan Barreda Bort who rode in the third wave of bikes, still ending the day 44th overall after his Leg 1 problems.

Sunderland completed the stage holding an impressive 3mins 30secs advantage over KTM team-mate and reigning FIM world champion Marc Coma, with Spain’s seven-times Desert Challenge winner settling for 10th fastest on the day.

Defending champion Paulo Goncalves of Portugal is in third place, with Austrian Matthias Walkner, Portugal’s Ruben Faria and American Ricky Brabec completing the top six. After another good day, the UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi was still comfortable in seventh overall.


With three long and testing desert stages remaining before the finish at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday afternoon, the battle for honours is still wide open. “So much can happen over the next three days so no driver or rider will be taking anything for granted,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.

Reaching the end of a demanding stage which twisted into the Rub Al Khali, finishing close to the towering Moreeb Hill, Al Attiyah said: “Yesterday we lost 21 minutes but today we started really well and we were careful for first 150km because the dunes were tricky.  I really pushed for the last part and made up some good time.  Nothing special but I am happy.”

Vasilyev completed the leg to say: “It was a good stage thanks to Nasser because we stayed with him and it was very quick. As we saw him it made it a little bit easier.  If we did it alone we wouldn’t have been able to keep the same speed. We could not see him when we were in the dust and we lost our rear right tyre and maybe lost around two minutes but we are pleased.”

Again showing that he has adapted well to cross country desert rallying, Al Qassimi said: “We lost a few minutes stuck in the sand and then had a/c problems.  Hot air was blowing on to us – I drank all the water and then started losing concentration due to dehydration.”

Sunderland said: “I got stuck in the last part but arrived first. It was tough as it was a mass start and no-one knows what’s happening until the last 50km and then everyone starts racing like moto cross. We will see later on how the strategy works in terms of result. Everyone holds off at the start and then you have to race like mad at the end but it was good and the bike was great.”

Coma said: “I came in quite late and with the mass start the plan was not to push to the front and save myself for tomorrow. I am feeling happy and the bike is running well.”

Ballooshi completed the stage to say: “A really good day with some ups and downs.  With the mass start there was a lot of sand spraying and my goggles became full of sand.  My visibility was not good but then the camel in me kicked in and I could see – I rode with pride and rode for my country. I could not be prouder.”

The 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region.

The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 12th year as the official vehicle of the event.

The line-up of strategic partners includes the Ruler’s Court in the Western Region, Western Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Nissan, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al Ain Mineral Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotels - Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort, Explorer and DP World.

Provisional overall standings after ADNOC SS2


1. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT / FRA ) Mini All4 Racing                 7:15:04.0

2. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS ) Mini All4 Racing            7:19:17.0

3. Erik Van Loon / Wouter Rosegaar (NED / NED ) Mini All4 Racing                    7:32:43.0

4. Yahya Al Helei / Khalid Al Kindi ( UAE / UAE ) Nissan Pick up                        7:35:08.0

5. Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi / Jose Marques ( UAE / POR ) Toyota Hilux               7:35:42.0

6. Orlando Terranova / Bernardo Graue (ARG / ARG ) Mini All4 Racing               7:40:52.0

7. Harry Hunt / Andreas Schulz ( GBR / DEU) Mini All4 Racing                            7:40:59.0        

8. Marek Dabrowski / Jacek Czachor ( POL / POL ) Toyota Hilux Overdrive          7:54:27.0

9.Miroslav Zapletal / Maciej Marton ( CZE / POL ) Hummer H3 Evo                     7:58:10.0

10. Stephan Schott / Xavier Panseri ( DEU / FRA ) Minin All4 Racing                    8:08:36.0


1.         Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1               7:22:53.0

2.         Marc Coma (SPA) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1                        7:26:23.0        

3.         Paulo Goncalves (POR) Honda CRF 450 Rally 1                  7:31:56.0

4.         Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1              7:35:34.0

5.         Ruben Faria (POR) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1                       7:36:04.0

6.         Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda CRF 450 Rally 1 J                    7:37:03.0

7.         Mohammad Al Balooshi (UAE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1   7:38:42.0

8.         Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1               7:42:09.0

9.         Armand Monleon (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1              7:48:21.0

10.       Juan Salvatierra (BOL) KTM 450 Rally Replica 1                 7:51:05.0


Tuesday 31st March LEG 3

·         Qasr Al Sarab SS 3 (272 km):Start is at 0730 from the road to Tal Morib, (N23 04.171 E53 47.364)

·         07:50, the first bikes enter the Morib sports complex from the Eastern end before departing over the dunes by the radio mast.

  • PC 2 (Service & Moto fuel)  0940 hrs, at the Qasr al Sarab Old Bivouac2014 (N22 53.310 E54 20.466). The route enters from the dunes to the South and departs to the East
  • Good viewing point at the Underpass 25 km north of Humeem, where the route passes from East to West at 1120 hrs
  • Qasar Al Sarab SS3 Finish is from the West,19 km north of Humeem, over some spectacular dunes at 1130

Wednesday 1st April LEG 4

·         Nissan Patrol SS 4 (258 km):start is 35 kms north of Mizaira ADNOC gas station at Fodder Farm, on road to Madinat Zayed – first competitor starts the SS at 0800hrs. N23 26.883 E53 43.384

  • Photo opportunity at PC 1 (Underpass)(W/point N23 07.943/E53 17.936) Gayathi Road (E15) 19 kms north of the roundabout junction with Liwa Crescent road. First Moto competitor due at approx 0845hrs.
  • PC 2 – Service and Moto Refuel at Arada Old village at the western extreme of the Liwa Crescent. First Bike 1015hrs (WP 22 53.224 53 24.996)
  • Nissan Patrol SS 4 Finish is at Farmers Service, 4 km due West of Qasr entrance at 1205 hrs