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BROTHERS CLAIM DOUBLE TRIUMPH IN UAE WAKEBOARDING CHAMPIONSHIP

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Emirati star Omeir Saeed added another title to his growing collection with victory in the UAE Wakeboard Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The 21-year-old Red Bull athlete lived up to his reputation as the country’s top performer with another impressive display to top the Freeride category for professional riders.

Making it a perfect day for the family, his 11 year old brother Ahmed won the junior category in the event which was hosted by Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club. Shaikh Abdulla Suood Faisal Salem Al Qasimi topped the novice category.
The championship, which took place off the capital’s Breakwater, saw 26 competitors performing a wide range of tricks when towed behind a motor boat travelling at speeds of 30-40km/hr.

Presenting the awards to winners and competitors of each class was Salem Al Remeithi, General Manager of ADIMSC.

Results

Free Ride Category:

  1. Omeir Saeed Omeir Yousef Al Mheiri (UAE)
  2. Khaled Matar Matar Subaa Al Ali (UAE)
  3. Sultan Khaled Salmeen Theeban (UAE)

Junior Category:

  1. Ahmed Saeed Omeir Yousef Al Mheiri  (UAE)
  2. Mohammed  Naser Mohammed Bahder AlBloushi (UAE)
  3. Hamed Naser Mohammed Bahadur AlBloushi (Syria)

Novice Category:

  1. Sheikh Abdulla Suood Faisal Salem Al Qasimi (UAE)
  2. Ahmad Badr Mohammed Al Sayyed Hasan Al Hashimi (UAE)
  3. Mohamed Amir Faiad (UAE)
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LADIES FISHING CATCHES ON IN ABU DHABI

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The first ever Abu Dhabi Ladies Fishing Championship saw 96 women competing in an event which now looks set to become an annual fixture on the capital’s water sports calendar.

The six-strong team led by Mariam Al Hammadi emerged as winners followed by teams led by Mariam Al Hatem as runners up and Reem Ali in third position.

Hosted by Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, the hub of water sport activity in the capital, the championship was held in conjunction with the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies

Sports Academy (FBMA).

“We were very pleased with the response we received to this new event and impressed with the spirit and enthusiasm of all those who took part,” said Salem Al Remeithi, General Manager of ADIMSC. “The club and FBMA are committed to encouraging more women to experience fishing as a sport, and we hope the championship will grow in popularity in the years ahead.”

The event, which attracted a mix of 16 nationalities, was staged with medical sponsorship by Al Salama Hospital and the added support of Fazaa Voluntary Team. The boats gathered at the ADIMSC marina on Saturday morning before moving 50 miles offshore for hook and line and rod fishing.

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PRUCHA CLAIMS VICTORY AS ABU DHABI LAUNCHES MOTOSURF WORLD CUP SEASON IN STYLE

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Former NHL star says UAE capital gives series new dimension

Petr Prucha, the former Czech professional ice hockey player whose NHL career was cut short by injury, believes Abu Dhabi is a perfect fit for the latest addition to its international water sport calendar.

Prucha, the ex-New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes forward, was in sparkling form as he won the opening round of this year’s UIM MotoSurf World Cup as the UAE capital welcomed the series into the Middle East for the first time at the weekend.

After eclipsing defending World Cup champion and fellow Czech Lukas Záhorský with back-to-back race wins in the men’ finals, Prucha said: “When we found out that the season was starting here we were all very happy because we had heard so many good things about Abu Dhabi.

“This is the perfect venue to start the series when it’s so cold in Europe. It’s an ideal destination for the World Cup and a natural venue for racing. It gives the series a new dimension.”

Hosted by Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, the three-day event came to a climax on Saturday after two days of initial qualifying and heats.

Průcha, who helped his country win the 2005 ice hockey world championship, dominated. He raced away in the men’s finals with a double victory from Záhorský, with Slovakian Sebastian Kubinec claiming third place in both races to take the other podium place.

Reigning womens’ world champion Aneta Šacherová sensed an overall triumph after clinching the first of the women’s finals. But big rival Martina Bravencova fought back to take outright victory by virtue of her win in the second, the results of the last race being decisive in the event of a tie.

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice President and CEO of ADIMSC, presented the trophies during the official awards ceremony at the club.

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PETERHANSELS CLINCH ‘SPECIAL’ DESERT CHALLENGE VICTORY AS SUNDERLAND STORMS TO SECOND BIKES CROWN  

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Husband and wife team create World Cup history and now look towards Dakar

Stephane Peterhansel cruised to his sixth cars victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan today while Sam Sunderland surged to his second bikes title in three years.

Adding to his status as the world’s most successful cross country rally competitor, Peterhansel claimed another distinction as he combined with wife Andrea over the Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage to become the first married couple to win an FIA World Cup rally.

Avoiding any of the dramas which held up each of their main rivals over five days of punishing desert driving, they took their Mini John Cooper Works Rally home by 8 mins 48 secs from the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi and Frenchman Xavier Panseri in a Peugeot 3008 DKR.

Brazilian Aron Domzala with Polish co-driver Maciej Marton claimed third place overall in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive on a day when one of the big casualties from the previous leg, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy, set the fastest stage time.

Sunderland obliterated the opposition on the final leg, converting his slender 18 seconds overnight advantage into an 8 mins 20 secs winning margin from Argentine KTM team-mate Luciano Benavides, still a junior and recording his first FIM World Championship podium finish.

Chilean Jose Cornejo finished third, another 1 min 39 secs away, with Honda team-mate Kevin Benavides, and American Andrew Short and Britain’s Ryan Blair, both riding Husqvarnas, completing the top six.

Finishing fourth overall in the cars category, American Casey Currie in a CAN AM Maverick X3 secured the buggies title ahead of Brazilian Reinaldo Varela who was placed fifth in another CAN AM ahead of two-times winner Vladimir Vasilyev of Russia in a BMW X3.

Qatari driver Mohammed Al Meer won the T2 production class in a Nissan Patrol which had a huge winning margin over Latvian Aldis Vilcans in a Toyota Land Cruiser. Kuwaiti’s Fahad Al Musallam on a Yamaha captured the quads title, winning by 1 min 13 secs from Poland’s Rafal Sonik.

Peterhansel, who won the Desert Challenge bikes crown in 1996 before adding five cars triumphs between 2002-2011, had the look of a champion again from the moment he took the outright lead on the second leg.

“This is an incredible moment,” he said at the finish. “This win is unbelievably special to me and I’m overjoyed to share it with my wife. It was a very physical challenge inside the car, but we made it through and now my mind is on Dakar for us.”

Wife Andrea reflected: “This rally has been about much more than winning. There have been many tough days for us at the Desert Challenge and we have had to work hard and fight for every stage against strong competition.

“And I can say it has been a pleasure to navigate for Stephane. I knew he was a talented driver, but now I know for certain. Months of training have led up this, one of the hardest rallies for both bikes and cars. For sure it was demanding. But, if it worked here, it can work anywhere for us.”

Sunderland clinched his second Desert Challenge bikes title in three years with the kind of performance which stamps him as a rider few can match when he is in full flow on his KTM.

Starting seventh today with only a fragile lead over Chile’s Jose Cornejo, he basically had the rally won with barely a quarter of the 214km Abu Dhabi Aviation stage completed as he pulled in the riders ahead with a brilliant surge from the start.

“I’m super happy with today and thankful for the team who have done a great job on the bike all week,” he said. “It’s great to start the world championship with this rally. Despite not having some of my teammates here, there is always someone fighting you for that top spot.

“It’s a strategic race so you have to push when it counts and know when to take care on the sections where there is nothing to gain. On paper it can look easy but it doesn’t always turn out that way. This year has been tricky with the wind on the earlier legs creating tough conditions and there were some difficult parts to navigate. It really made the rally the challenge it is supposed to be.”

“This has been another classic cross country rally, with all the ingredients that have built the reputation of the Desert Challenge over the years,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, and FIA Vice President for Sport. “We now look forward to the 30th edition next year. The story goes on.”

Runner-up Al Qassimi said: I have enjoyed today the most, my driving style was flowing with this difficult stage. We took some big risks with the car, pushing it to the limit to post a good time. The car did suffer some front end damage, but we made it across the line due to our relentless momentum all the way to the end.”

Bikes runner-up Benavides said: “I’m really happy with today and a great result. I pushed to make up the time to take the 2nd podium place. It wasn’t easy and with the leg being shorter than yesterday, I really had to push to catch the others and make up the time.”

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the event was the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies and the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.

The Desert Challenge is supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit.

Results (provisional)

Cars

  1. Stephane Peterhansel / Andrea Peterhansel (FRA / DEU) / MINI JCWorks Rally 18:03:45.0
  2. Khalid Al Qassimi / Xavier Panseri (ARE / FRA) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 18:12:33.0
  3. Aron Domzala / Maciej Marton (POL / POL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 18:50:01.0
  4. Casey Currie / Laurent Lichtleuchter (USA / FRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 19:43:18.0
  5. Reinaldo Varela / Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA / BRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 19:44:30.0
  6. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / BMW X3 19:44:44.0
  7. Martin Prokop / Viktor Chytka (CZE / CZE) / Ford Raptor RS Cross Country 19:56:05.0
  8. Cyril Despres / Daniel Oliveras (FRA / ESP) / Mini John Cooper Works Buggy 22:12:19.0
  9. Thomas Bell / Patrick McMurren (ARE / ARE) 24:44:59.0
  10. Khalid Al Jafla / Andrei Rudnitski (ARE / BLR) 24:46:08.0

Bikes

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 17:46:42.0
  2. Luciano Benavides (ARG) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 17:55:02.0
  3. Jose Cornejo (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 17:56:41.0
  4. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 18:21:33.0
  5. Andrew Short (USA) / HUSQVARNA FR 450 / 1 18:48:22.0
  6. Ryan Blair (GBR) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 19:23:33.0
  7. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 19:23:48.0
  8. Mark Ackerman (ZAF) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 19:31:13.0
  9. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 19:32:36.0
  10. Fahad Al Musallam (KWT) / Yamaha Raptor 700 / 2 21:51:28.0
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PRIZE GIVING ROUNDS OFF ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE POWERED BY NISSAN

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Sulayem presents trophies as UAE’s world class rally reaches climax at Yas Marina Circuit

The 29th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan came to a climax with a gala dinner and prize giving ceremony at Yas Marina Circuit.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and Emirates Motorsport Federation, was joined by Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit.

The winners included French driver Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Andrea Peterhansel who landed the cars title, and second time bikes champion Sam Sunderland from the United Kingdom.

Qatari driver Mohammed Al Meer and Russian and co-driver Alexey Kuzmich won the T2 production cars category in a Nissan Patrol.

American Casey Currie captured the buggies title while Kuwati Fahad Al Musallam was crowned quads champion.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the event was the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies and the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.

The rally was supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit.

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PETERHANSEL, SUNDERLAND HEAD FOR HOME BUT PRESSURE IS ON AFTER DAY OF DRAMA IN DESERT CHALLENGE

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Ten Brinke the biggest casualty as top drivers hit trouble while Cornejo makes big surge for bikes crown

Stéphane Peterhansel and Sam Sunderland remain the men to catch after a day of drama in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan set the scene for a thrilling last leg sweeping back to the UAE capital.

While Peterhansel extended his overnight cars lead to 18 mins 35 secs from the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi, the trail of misfortunes which stopped some of his main rivals in their tracks on the 286.10km ADNOC stage suggest that victory is anything but certain.

While the French five-times winner and wife Andrea in a Mini John Cooper Works Rally had a smooth passage through the dunes of the Rub Al Khali, setting the day’s fastest time, three of the overnight top five had days to forget.

The biggest casualty was Bernhard Ten Brinke who was lying second overnight but went out of the rally after the second of two incidents in his Toyota Hilux Overdrive.

He reached the service halt with the roof damaged and a wheel needing to be replaced after the car rolled on the stage. Shortly after restarting, another accident ended with Ten Brinke and co-driver Tom Colsoul being transferred by helicopter to hospital in Madinat Zayed. Their injuries were not believed to be serious.

Czech Jakub Przygonski, fastest on the previous leg, failed to even start today’s stage because of mechanical problems, eventually returning his John Cooper Works Buggy to the bivouac with his challenge over for another year.

Defending champion Martin Prokop also saw his fading hopes disappear after a sequence of mechanical issues in his Ford Raptor RS Cross Country.

Al Qassimi in the Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR was one of several drivers to be stopped by soft sand early on. He recovered and will find confidence in the fact that he started the final leg with a far greater deficit two years ago and went on to win.

Finishing the day in third overall another 27 mins 37 secs adrift was Poland’s Aaron Domzala in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive. Completing the top six were Russia’s two-times winner Vladimir Vasilyev in a BMW X3 followed by the two CAN AM Maverick X3 buggies of Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela and American Casey Currie who are separated by just 43 seconds in the fight for the T3 title.

Sunderland’s bikes lead, meanwhile, was whittled down to a slender 18 seconds by Chile’s Jose Cornejo, today’s impressive stage winner. The reward in cross country rallying for winning a stage is being first away the next day, with no tracks to follow and the pack giving chase, and not for the first time overnight leader Sunderland felt the heat today.

His was only the seventh fastest time, 12 mins 33 secs slower than Cornejo who is now breathing down his neck, with the battle for the title looking very much like a two-bikes race to the finish, barring any final leg disasters for the leading pair.

“We have seen again today how tough and unpredictable the Desert Challenge can be, and we look forward to a great finish tomorrow, knowing there could still be more surprises,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, and FIA Vice President for Sport. The rally finishes at Yas Marina Circuit at 5pm tomorrow.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the event is supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit.

Despite a difficult leg littered with time penalties, Qatari driver Mohammed Al Meer leads the T2 production class in a Nissan Patrol by more than nine hours from Latvian Aldis Vilcans in a Toyota Land Cruiser. In the quads, Kuwaiti Fahad Al Musallam on a Yama leads by 5 mins 38 secs from Poland’s Rafal Sonik.

Peterhansel completed the ADNOC leg to say: “It was a long stage today, and luckily we didn’t get stuck and kept on moving as it was a very difficult stage for the cars, with very complicated dunes. I like it this way. If it’s too easy I find it boring.”

Al Qassimi said: “It was difficult and we got stuck on the first section a lot. There was a lot of soft sand and we’re in a two wheel drive car. But we’re here now. I’m not sure where we finished in the timings because of the amount of time we spent digging ourselves out.”

Domzala finished the stage to say: “Amazing day. We had a minor electric issue for around three minutes early on in the stage. We caught up with Vladimir and Al Qassimi and had a close ride with those guys until Vladimir had a puncture and dropped behind. I couldn’t get past Al Qassimi, his pace is quick.”

Bikes stage winner Cornejo reached the end of the leg to say: “I was pushing today to try and recover as many minutes as possible. Who knows, if I win this stage it will make it hard for me tomorrow having to break the first tracks. I will fight to the end for sure.”

Sunderland reflected: “Another tough day especially with opening the stage. It always puts you at a disadvantage. I’m happy with the job I’ve done today and I only arrived with two other riders. Another long day and I’m really tired which is normal after a stage like this. You have to ride really technically as the colours of the dunes can be confusing.”

Finishing the stage, Luciano Benavides said: “I’m feeling much better than yesterday. It was really nice to ride with my brother as I caught up to him and it was great to finish alongside him. It was the first time this rally I have rode with him so a great experience.”

The UAE’s FIM World Cup champion Mohammed Al Balooshi ended the day in ninth place overall and said: “In the last 60km I found my rhythm, which was a good feeling – building up my confidence after my accident at the Desert Challenge last year. I’m happy to be back and focusing on the task.”

 

Leading positions after ANDOC Stage 4 (provisional)

 

Cars

  1. Stephane Peterhansel / Andrea Peterhansel (FRA / DEU) / MINI JCWorks Rally 15:13:16.0
  2. Khalid Al Qassimi / Xavier Panseri (ARE / FRA) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 15:31:51.0
  3. Aron Domzala / Maciej Marton (POL / POL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 15:59:28.0
  4. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / BMW X3 16:09:15.0
  5. Reinaldo Varela / Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA / BRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 16:46:59.0
  6. Casey Currie / Laurent Lichtleuchter (USA / FRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 16:47:42.0
  7. Martin Prokop / Viktor Chytka (CZE / CZE) / Ford Raptor RS Cross Country 17:16:45.0
  8. Cyril Despres / Daniel Oliveras (FRA / ESP) / Mini John Cooper Works Buggy 19:25:04.0

Bikes

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 15:06:43.0
  2. Jose Cornejo (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 15:07:01.0
  3. Luciano Benavides (ARG) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 15:11:37.0
  4. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 15:27:59.0
  5. Andrew Short (USA) / HUSQVARNA FR 450 / 1 15:42:31.0
  6. Mark Ackerman (ZAF) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 16:05:53.0
  7. Ryan Blair (GBR) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 16:19:20.0
  8. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 16:23:26.0
  9. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 16:32:23.0
  10. Fahad Al Musallam (KWT) / Yamaha Raptor 700 / 2 18:27:02.0
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ABU DHABI SETS NEW STAGE FOR UIM MOTOSURF WORLD CUP

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Czech world champions begin title defence in UAE capital

Abu Dhabi provides a new international stage over the next three days for the UIM MotoSurf World Cup, with a top class line up of 50 professional riders assembled in the UAE capital for the first round of this year’s series.

Czech stars Lukas Zahorsky and Aneta Sacherova, the reigning men’s and women’s world champions, begin the defence of their titles in the new three-day event getting under way tomorrow (Thursday), hosted by Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).

“Abu Dhabi is well established as a world-class water sport venue, and we are very happy to be adding another impressive marine race series to the calendar for the benefit of our local and international audiences,” said H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice President and CEO of ADIMSC.

In the all-action, relatively new sport of motosurfing, riders race on ultra-light weight high tech water machines compact enough to be carried as personal luggage, making it easy for competitors to travel the international circuit.

Bringing the UIM MotoSurf World Cup into the Middle East for the first time, the opening round of the 2019 series gets underway off the Breakwater Beach with a free practice session starting at 11.30am tomorrow (Thursday).

After a weekend race programme running from 2 pm-4 pm on both days the event concludes with the official awards ceremony taking place at 4: 30 pm on Saturday at ADIMSC.

The World Cup series, billed as is one of the most advanced, safest and cheapest motorsport attractions in the world, arrives in Abu Dhabi as the result of an agreement between ADIMSC and MotoSurf WorldCup (MSWC), the promoter.

For ADIMSC, it adds to already impressive water sport credentials as the host of the penultimate round of the UIM F1H2o World Championship, as well as aquabikes, XCAT and Class 1 powerboart racing in recent years.

The Abu Dhabi round is the first of six scheduled this year, with others to follow in Brno, Czech Republic, Wyboston Lakes, England, Kazan, Russia, Florida, USA, and another Czech venue yet to be confirmed.

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FISHING WINNERS LAND BIG CATCH IN ABU DHABI

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Al Marzooqi, Al Mansoori claim top prizes as championship reaches Grand Prix climax at ADIMSC

Abdul Fattah Al Marzooqi and Tariq Al Mansoori are the outright winners of the Abu Dhabi Fishing Championship which reached its conclusion with more than 170 boats taking to the water for the final Grand Prix event.

Hosted by Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, the three-round competition began last November and ended with Al Marzooqi claiming the overall king fish prize while Al Mansoori was the cobia fish season winner. Both were presented with fishing boats by sponsors Al Tayar Team.

In the final round, Saif Al Muhairi topped the King Fish category ahead of Abdullah Al Murri and Obid Al Falasi. Khalid El Romiethi won the Cobia Fish category from Mubarak Al Masoori and Abdullah Al Kindi.

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PETERHANSELS FIND PERFECT HARMONY IN DESERT CHALLENGE AS SUNDERLAND SEES BIKES LEAD SHRINK

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Saudi’s Al Rajhi recovers from first leg disaster to win stage as Spain’s Cornejo sets fastest bikes time

There are few things that Stéphane Peterhansel has not achieved in cross country rallying, although winning an event with his wife for company, now a real possibility in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan, would be another first.

It is eight years since the Frenchman won the last of his five Desert Challenge cars titles, but he has another in his sights, despite recording only the fourth fastest time on today’s 222.80km Al Ain Water stage in a Mini John Cooper Works Rally as another sandstorm pounded the Rub Al Khali.

While Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al- Rajhi left behind the previous day’s disastrous transmission problems to win the stage in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, Peterhansel ended it with a 2 mins 26 secs outright lead from Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke.

Right up until the eve of rally there were doubts as to whether Peterhansel’s wife Andrea would join him in the car because of travel sickness issues, something which never troubled her as a top class rider and driver.

They faced a fresh challenge today, after Ten Brinke’s Toyota and the Mini JCW Buggy of overnight leader Cyril Despres joined a trail of casualties to get stuck in soft sand, leaving them out in front with only the dunes ahead.

“It was a complicated stage and we saw a few cars ahead struggling and getting stuck, so we played it safe and went not too fast,” said the 13-times Dakar Rally winner at the end.

“There was still a lot of wind which makes the dunes difficult and leading the cars for the stage was a new experience for my wife as there was no tracks to follow.”

With a fragile lead, Peterhansel now has a pack of proven winners at the top level now hounding him.

Just 32 seconds behind Ten Brenke comes the UAE’s 2017 winner Khalid Al Qassimi in the Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR.

Completing a top six separated by only 16 mins 20 secs are Poland’s Dubai Baja champion Jakub Przygonski of in a Mini JCW Buggy, last year’s Czech winner Martin Prokop in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country and Russia’s two-times Desert Challenge victor Vladimir Vasilyev in a BMW X3.

It was another particularly testing day for the bike and quad riders as 30km winds churned up the sand, making visibility difficult, and Spain’s Jose Cornejo on a Honda adapted best.

Not only winning the stage by 1 min 43 secs rom Spanish Honda team-mate Joan Barreda Bort, he covered it 5 mins 55 faster than Sam Sunderland to slash the 2017 Desert Challenge champion’s overall lead on a KTM to 51 seconds. The Argentinian Benavides brothers Luciano and Kevin, along with UAE-based South African Mark Ackerman complete the top six.

“We’ve had another day of classic desert rallying and with so many top riders and drivers close together the race for the cars and bikes titles is really wide open.” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and FIA Vice President for Sport.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the event is supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit.

After seeing his victory hopes die 24 hours earlier when he was stranded in the desert, Al Rajhi finished today’s stage to say: “It was a great day. A very good feeling to finish first after an unlucky day yesterday.”

Ten Brinke said: “It was a tough day for sure. The first 25km I was driving well next to Stephane then we got stuck and lost time there. Also we were trading places with Yazeed like cat and mouse in the stage. Unfortunately 50km from the finish we hit a jump and it broke my seat and maybe something else in the car, I don’t know. After this, it was a challenge to reach the finish.”

The spirit of the rally shone through again as Przygonski repaid the debt he owed to Prokop who had towed him out of the sand on the first leg.

Reaching the end of the stage with his right side door missing, Przygonski said: “We saw Prokop get stuck and helped pull him out. Then we saw he got stuck again and we tried to help but we would have lost too much time if we stayed. It was a difficult stage and our right door has come off which means a lot of sand inside. We were still happy to help Martin after yesterday.”

Prokop reflected: “The first half of the stage I was fast, just behind the lead car. Then we got stuck and the leaders helped pull us out. After this, the second half was really a disaster. We suffered from low pressure somewhere in the engine and had to restart the car.”

Reaching the end of the stage Cornejo said: “Again today it was tough windy conditions. This was whipping the sand up in the air making visibility low. In the last 30km I was riding in a group with Sam and Andy over the flat sections to the finish. This made the ride quicker, possibly making up some time for me.”

Short completed the stage to say: “Today was more difficult than yesterday with more drops in the dunes, I had to be careful and with the wind again there was a lot of sand in my goggles.”

Sunderland, the 2017 bikes champion, said: “There was quite a lot of wind which made it hard to concentrate. It was a very different stage to yesterday’s and I’m looking forward to another day of the desert challenge.”

Leading positions after Al Ain Water Stage 2 (provisional)

Cars

  1. Stephane Peterhansel / Andrea Peterhansel (FRA / DEU) / MINI JCWorks Rally 7:16:46.0
  2. Bernhard Ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul (NDL / BEL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7:19.12.0
  3. Khalid Al Qassimi / Xavier Panseri (ARE / FRA) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 7:19:44.0
  4. Jakub Przygonski / Timo Gottschalk (POL / DEU) / MINI John Cooper Works Buggy 7:25:33.0
  5. Martin Prokop / Viktor Chytka (CZE / CZE) / Ford Raptor RS Cross Country 7:27:05.0
  6. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / BMW X3 7:32:58.0
  7. Aron Domzala / Maciej Marton (POL / POL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7:37:53.0
  8. Casey Currie / Laurent Lichtleuchter (USA / FRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 7:57:30.0
  9. Reinaldo Varela / Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA / BRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 7:57:39.0
  10. Cyril Despres / Daniel Oliveras (FRA / ESP) / Mini John Cooper Works Buggy 10:45:57.0

Bikes

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 6:59:57.0
  2. Jose Cornejo (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 7:00:48.0
  3. Andrew Short (USA) / HUSQVARNA FR 450 / 1 7:04:09.0
  4. Luciano Benavides (ARG) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 7:06:39.0
  5. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 7:20:17.0
  6. Mark Ackerman (ZAF) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 7:48:49.0
  7. Ryan Blair (GBR) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 7:49:00.0
  8. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 7:59:02.0
  9. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 8:08:34.0
  10. David McBride (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally / 1 8:39:16.0

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan, remaining rally itinerary:

2 April:            Nissan Stage 3 (297.97km) – starting 6.15am

3 April:            ADNOC Stage 4 (286.10km) – starting 6.00am

4 April:            Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5 (214.47km) – starting 6.25am

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DESPRES, SUNDERLAND SET EARLY PACE AS SANDSTORM TURNS DESERT CHALLENGE INTO SURVIVAL BATTLE

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Competitors face wall of sand as first of five demanding desert stages sets tough pace

Cyril Despres and Sam Sunderland emerged as the early pacesetters in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan today as a heavy sandstorm turned the opening leg into a battle for survival.

High winds churning up a wall of sand made visibility a constant problem as the 262km Yas Marina Circuit Stage wound its way through the dunes towards it conclusion at the bivouac, the rally’s desert base for the next four days on the fringe of the Rub Al Khali.

Partnered by Spain’s Daniel Oliveras in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy , Frenchman Despres, five time a Desert Challenge bikes winner, made a positive start in pursuit of his first cars triumph at his second attempt on four wheels.

He completed the stage holding a 5 mins 45 secs advantage over Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive.

Chasing a sixth cars victory, eight years after his last and this time with wife and former rally star Andrea as co-driver, Stephane Peterhansel was just 1 min 58 secs further away in third in a Mini John Cooper Works Rally.

Czech defending champion Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka held fourth in a Ford Raptor RS from Dubai Baja winners Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk in another Mini. The UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi and Xavier Panseri completed the top six in an Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR.

While conditions were thoroughly demanding for the 34 drivers who started the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, they were particularly tough on the 33 bike and quads riders contesting the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

Sunderland, the 2017 Desert Challenge and Dakar Rally winner, produced a hugely impressive performance to lead by 6 mins 9 secs from Andrew Short, the Texan quickly making an impact in cross country rallying after a rock star career in American Supercross and Motocross.

Chile’s Jose Cornejo was 37 seconds away in third with another young rising star, Argentinian Argentinean Luciano Benavides, 2 mins 21 secs further behind, just ahead of elder brother Kevin.

UAE-based Mark Ackerman completed the top six while top Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi had a rough day, finishing more than 42 minutes off the pace in eighth position.

“It was a day when we saw just how tough and demanding the Desert Challenge can be” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and FIA Vice President for Sport.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the event is supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit.

Reaching the end of the stage, Despres said: “It has been a long time since I started a stage with a storm and strong winds as we had here today. I could not see the crest of the dunes easily. It was challenging.

“This was our first mission with new co-driver Daniel and we are getting to know each other. Also, I am not used to the desert you have here in Abu Dhabi, I need to get back and learn how to read the tracks much better.”

Ten Brinke said: “It was a good day today. We started fourth so there were some good tracks to follow. We burst a tyre after jumping a dune and lost 3 or 4 minutes finding a safe spot to change it.”

Stephane Peterhansel, whose initial Desert Challenge success came as a rider back in 1996, had been unsure until 24 hours before the start whether wife Andrea would be alongside him in view of her problems with car sickness. Reaching the end of the stage he said: “It was a good day. The car suffered no problems. The husband and wife team are doing well, and there were no sickness problems.”

Sunderland completed the stage to say: “I found the first leg difficult, battling low visibility in the sandstorm right from the start till the end. I tried to get a good rhythm throughout and avoid mistakes where possible.”

Short said: “I was really fortunate to ride behind Sam today as he knows the terrain very well. It’s my first time in the Desert Challenge and I felt lucky with the weather. I was with a good group of riders and the wind cleared our tracks which would have made it more difficult for those behind us.”

Cornejo declared: “Today was really tough and with the wind it made it more difficult to anticipate the dunes. With this being my first time the cloudiness was an extra challenge and I had issues finding my rhythm but I’m still looking forward to the next four days.”

Reflecting on a challenging opening leg, Balooshi said: “I started second but Sam managed to catch me then (Kevin) Benavides and I got stuck a couple of times. It wasn’t meant to be for me. I thought the Desert Challenge would have been an easier experience after the Dakar rally but it was extremely tough. But I did enjoy myself out there, it was a great challenge.”

Leading positions after Yas Marina Circuit Stage 1 (provisional):

Cars

  1. Cyril Despres / Daniel Oliveras (FRA / ESP) / Mini John Cooper Works Buggy 3:39:15.0
  2. Bernhard Ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul (NDL / BEL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3:45:00.0
  3. Stephane Peterhansel / Andrea Peterhansel (FRA / DEU) / MINI JCWorks Rally 3:46:58.0
  4. Martin Prokop / Viktor Chytka (CZE / CZE) / Ford Raptor RS Cross Country 3:50:01.0
  5. Jakub Przygonski / Timo Gottschalk (POL / DEU) / MINI John Cooper Works Buggy 3:54:02.0
  6. Khalid Al Qassimi / Xavier Panseri (ARE / FRA) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 3:54:24.0
  7. Aron Domzala / Maciej Marton (POL / POL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3:57:10.0
  8. Casey Currie / Laurent Lichtleuchter (USA / FRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 4:04:35.0
  9. Reinaldo Varela / Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA / BRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 4:05:43.0
  10. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / BMW X3 4:08:08.0

Bikes

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 3:40:41.0
  2. Andrew Short (USA) / HUSQVARNA FR 450 / 1 3:46:50.0
  3. Jose Cornejo (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 3:47:27.0
  4. Luciano Benavides (ARG) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 3:49:48.0
  5. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 3:55:08.0
  6. Mark Ackerman (ZAF) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 4:21:12.0
  7. Ryan Blair (GBR) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 4:21:30.0
  8. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 4:23:30.0
  9. David McBride (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally / 1 4:41:47.0
  10. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 4:44:56.0

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan, remaining rally itinerary:

1 April:   Al Ain Water Stage 2 (222.80km) – starting 6.00am

2 April:  Nissan Stage 3 (297.97km) – starting 6.15am

3 April:  ADNOC Stage 4 (286.10km) – starting 6.00am

4 April:   Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5 (214.47km) – starting 6.25am

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