Delayed start due to fog and a shorter special stage but no shortage of action
Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 2, 2023: Following a delayed start due to fog, the Al Futtaim Toyota Stage 4, which would have been the longest of the race, ended up with a 173 kilometre Special Stage instead of 308 kilometres for the cars. The bikes started earlier and therefore still had to do the full distance. It was hot, technically demanding, and as the drivers and riders set out, they were faced with the somewhat unusual possibility of rain in the afternoon.
With Nasser Al Attiyah’s retirement following his crash yesterday, a charging Sebastian Loeb once again proved that no amount of misfortune can discourage his hunger for points taking the stage win, with Yazeed Al Rahji leading the overall classification and Martin Prokop 10 minutes back. In the RallyGP category, Pablo Quintanilla retired, while Luciano Benavides won the stage and is second in the overall standings. Adrien Van Beveren maintained his commanding lead in the category.
Stage 4 started at Madinat Zayed traversing valleys and ridges before heading for the E15 underpass, taking in some demanding climbs and some nearly impossible dune ranges. Then an open, fast desert stretch recrossed the E15 before a very demanding dune section leading to the Refuel station at Arada Fort. The route then crossed the E90 into the Liwa Valleys to the southern extremity of the Khis Gatch, and ran along the Qasr environmental area to the finish.
Emirates Motor Sports Organisation (EMSO) President, H.E. Khalid Ben Sulayem, commented: “Yesterday once again provided a lot of drama, including, sadly, the car damage that saw Nasser Al Attiyah having to withdraw from the race. Thankfully he and his co-driver are fine. Today, with the start delayed by fog and shortened to 173 kilometres for the cars, the course nevertheless provided another major challenge as the drivers and riders were then obliged to deal with much more intense heat due to starting later in the day. Thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the His Highness Sheikh Hamadan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court of the Al Dhafra Region, the organisation and coordination of this complex and challenging event is exemplary. Alongside that, the seamless coordination and hard work of the police, army and the search and rescue services continues to ensure that the 32nd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a triumph of sporting excellence.”
In unusual conditions with early morning fog and temperatures in the low-30s, this was a stage that saw Sebastian Loeb in T1 able to further reduce the points gap, Yazeed Al Rajhi, who finished second yesterday, came third today but retains the overall lead, while Henk Lategan took second place. Martin Prokop, the only driver still in contention for a win to have already won the ADDC, finished fourth. In T3, Mattias Ekström finished ahead of Seth Quintero with Joao Ferreira in third, with Quintero remaining ahead in the overall standings, ahead of fellow Red Bull driver Austin Jonbes. In T4 local hero Emirati Mansour Al Helei of the Abu Dhabi Team won again with reigning world champion Rokas Baciuska in second. Baciuska remains at the head of the overall classification while Al Helei, who took a 15 minute penalty, is in second.
In the bike RallyGP, Luciano Benavides won ahead of General Classification leader Van Beveren and Botswana’s Ross Branch, but Pablo Quintanilla failed to finish after suffering technical problems. In Rally2, Paolo Lucci also suffered a breakdown, the leader of the overall ranking in Rally2 was stopped for half an hour 20 km from the finish line. but unlike Quintanilla, he can start again tomorrow. No big surprises in the Quad Bike category with stage winner Abdulaziz Ahli still leading the overall classification ahead of Kancius, with Adomas Gancierius in third.
Paul Willis, CEO, Al-Futtaim Automotive, visiting the bivouac today, commented: “It’s great to be here and look at our products in the toughest environment in the world. Awe inspiring, in fact and it really shows that the engineering that sits behind these vehicles makes them wonderful products for our customers. Our manufacturing partners learn a lot over this week about how to improve their vehicles, and I extend my sincerest thanks to EMSO, and the Al Dhafra authorities for making it all possible.” Al Futtaim Toyota are the official providers of the service cars that are used by the over 200 officials during the race.
On the eve of the end of the second round of the World Championship, Sébastien Loeb can already hope to leave Abu Dhabi with nine extra championship points for his Top 5 places. Tomorrow, he could increase this score by taking even more, making a total of 14 points. But he first has to reach the finish line tomorrow and the ADDC has shown that even for the best, anything can happen For the bikes, the Top 7 is separated by less than 9 minutes. For the FIM riders, even though Adrien Van Beveren has been hanging on to the overall lead for the last 3 days, everything can change tomorrow too. You can come to see the medal ceremony at the ADNOC Energy Business Center tomorrow at 11.30.
Sébastien Loeb commented at he finish line: “It’s great to be winning again and on top of the results so thank you to the team for the hard work they’ve done. We had one big landing that was a big hit so it proved you can get caught, but the car took it and we’re back at the bivouac all together. For the championship, today brings more points but we must finish tomorrow to get those points when we return to Abu Dhabi.”
Adrien Van Beveren pushed all the way, and loved it: “I started this morning with the idea of going fast and I tried to improve my overall time. So I pushed all out. It was a bit hot and I enjoyed the ride today.”
Luciano Benavides is ready for Stage 5: “It was another nice stage for me. I pushed all day and gave 100 per cent, so to win again is a really nice feeling. Tomorrow will be the last big push and I am ready for that.”
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region; presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; with the support of this year’s Energy partner ADNOC Distribution; Automotive partner Al-Futtaim Toyota; Abu Dhabi Aviation; Al Ain Water; Governmental support from the Ministry of Defence & UAE Armed Forces , Abu Dhabi Police, Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co, Al Dhafra Region Municipality, and our media partner Abu Dhabi Sports TV.
T1 Stage 4
1. Sebastian Loeb 02:28:10
2. Henk Lategan. + 06:59
3. Yazeed Al Rahji + 09:09
T3 Stage 4
- Mattias Ekstrom 02:34:58
- Seth Quintero + 01:57
- Joao Ferreira + 02:57
T4 Stage 4
- Mansour Al Helei 02:36:48
- Rocas Baciuska + 03:31
- Pau Navarro + 08:57
RallyGP Stage 4
- Luciano Benavides 03:47:08
- Adrien Van Beveren + 03:22
- Ross Branch. + 04:06
Rally2 Stage 4
- Jean-Luc Lepan 04:09:58
- Toni Mulec. + 05:29
- Tobias Ebster + 08:37
Quad Stage 4
- Abdulaziz Ahli 04:52:48
- Laisvydas Kansius +16:55
- Adomas Gancierius +35:23