The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge rounded off its 30th edition with another fascinating chapter today, as Nasser Al Attiyah secured his third victory in the event and Matthias Walkner his first.
Partnered by Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Al Attiyah captured the drivers’ title with a winning margin of 21 mins 12 secs from Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez and Spain’s Armand Monleon in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive.
Fastest on each of the four previous stages, Al Attiyah was content with a third best time today as Alvarez took the honours, while Russia’s Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy secured the other podium place
While the Qatari must now wait until next month’s final round in Saudi Arabia to clinch the FIA World Cup drivers’ title, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge produced world champions at the double.
Finishing sixth overall, American Austin Jones and Brazilian co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin secured their FIA T4 crown with a convincing win in the category in a CAN-AM Maverick.
Spain’s Cristina Gutierrez and Frenchman François Cazalet in an Overdrive OT3 are FIA T3 champions after finishing runners up today to Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Alsaif and Russian co-driver Egor Okhotikov who were comfortable winners in another CAN-AM Maverick.
New FIM RallyGP champion Walkner on a KTM claimed the bikes crown by 4 mins 31.8 secs from Adrien Van Beveren, despite the Frenchman winning the 162.94km Yas Marina Circuit stage for his third fastest time. Portugal’s Joaquim Rodrigues on a Hero took the other podium place.
Giving the UAE a victory to acclaim ahead of the host country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations next month, Abdulaziz Ahli won the quads title by a huge margin from Poland’s multiple world champion Rafal Sonik, and Argentina’s Manuel Andujar who had led for three days.
“This is a rally that has everything, as we’ve seen over the last 30 years, and have seen again this week,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO) and FIA Vice President for Sport. “We look forward to many more anniversaries.”
A jubilant Al Attiyah said at the finish: “It’s quite an amazing feeling to win this race for the third time. It was not easy, so that makes winning even better for me. One thing I have learned is that if you want to win, you need to work very hard – everybody, the crew, the team. Only then will you get results like this.”
Walkner was equally elated: “Finally, this was a really good rally,” he said. “I survived it to the finish line and I am super happy with this incredible win here. The team has done an amazing job and it is cool to win the last race of the season.
“Winning my first world title also gives me a lot of confidence. But it was also very important to finish this race well and then look to the challenges ahead.”
Claiming an impressive fifth place overall on another KTM, Poland’s Konrad Dabrowski, son of triple offroad world champion Marek Dabrowski, secured the FIM junior world title.
The UAE’s Sultan Al Balooshi on another KTM completed the top six, while South African Michael Docherty clinched an overwhelming victory in Rally2.
New quads champion Ahli said at the finish: “Finally I did it, and I feel good arriving here. All the hard work paid off. I had a tough fight with Manuel (Andujar) and found it hard to keep up with him because of my bad finger. I’m happy and proud to be here.”
Walkner’s victory in the RallyGP bikes was a masterpiece of tactical riding. The Austrian did what he needed to do in order to win, as he had already done in wrapping up the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship before this final round started.
Fastest only on the opening super special, which decided the starting order for the main course, he followed up with second place on all five desert stages.
Third stage winner Daniel Sanders, lying second overnight on his GasGas, suffered the cruellest of finishes. The Australian ran out of fuel 200m from the end of the stage, slipping to eighth after pushing and coaxing his bike home.
The Czech Republic’s Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country had a runaway victory in the class for 2022 specification cars.
Taking place under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafrah Region, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is supported by the Ruler’s Representative Court Al Dhafrah Region, UAE Armed Forces, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, ADNOC Distribution, Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Aviation, National Ambulance, Al-Futtaim Toyota, Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Al Dhafrah Region Municipality, Al-Ain Water and Tadweer.
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge results (provisional)
1. Nasser Al Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT/ AND) / Toyota Hilux 17:45:58.0
2. Lucio Alvarez / Armand Monleon (ARG / SPA) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 18:07:00.0
3. Denis Krotov / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / Mini John Cooper Works Bugg 19:00:21.0
4. Yazeed Al Rajhi/ Michael Orr (SAU / GBR) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 19:02:40.0.
5. Sebastian Halpern / Bernardo Graue (ARG / ARG) / Mini John Cooper Works Buggy 19:28:32.0
6. Austin Jones / Gustavo Gugelmin (USA / BRA) / BRP CAN-AM Maverick 19:29:24.0
7. Marek Goczal / Lukasz LASKAWIEC (POL / POL) / BRP CAN-AM Maverick 19:41:02.0
8. Aron Domzala / Maciejk Marton (POL / POL) / BRP CAN-AM Maverick 19:45:16.0
9. Mansour Al Helei / Abdulla Dakhan (ARE / ARE) / BRP CAN-AM Maverick 20:09:18.0
10 Saleh Alsaif / Egor Okhotikov (SAU / RUS) / BRP CAN-AM Maverick 20:11:42.0
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT) / KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica / 1 17:38:40.4
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA) / Yamaha WR450 F01 Rally / 1 17:43:12.2
3. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT) / Hero 450 Rally / 1 18:14:06.0
4. Aaron Mare (ZAF) / KTM 450 Rally / 1 19:38:35.0
5. Konrad Dabrowski (POL) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 20:29:01.8
6. Sultan Al Balooshi (UAE) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 20:40:48.0
7. David McBride (GBR) / Husqvarna 450 Rally / 1 21:04:48.0
8. Abdullah Shatti (KWT) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 23:10:15.8
9. David Mabbs (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 2 23:36:00.2
10. Mishal Al Ghuneim (SAU) / Husqvarna 450 FR Rally / 1 24:29:03.2