Totalling 365 kilometres, and testing riders with a timed special of 257 kilometres, stage two of the ADDC was once again made up of a mixture of tall sand dunes and faster, sandy tracks. With navigation throughout the stage not posing too much of a challenge, finding a solid pace and reading the terrain was key to good result.
The Honda duo charged with opening the way today, Quintanilla and Van Beveren, came in ninth and fifth in the special but remain in control of the general standings, with the Frenchman bumping the Chilean from the lead.
Adrien Van Beveren
“Today was a good day overall, really tough. I was able to reach Pablo at around kilometre 57 and then we rode together pushing the best we could going fast and opening the stage. It was a long way with a lot of sand dunes, broken dunes and not always easy to find the way with some surprises on the other side. I did my best and I am happy about that, considering that we were opening the stage. Now I will keep the focus for tomorrow, looking forward to getting back on the sand tracks.”
“Starting in front and opening the stage is always a difficult challenge and we knew today wouldn’t be different. The main goal was to be in front to have the bonus, so in the end it was not so bad. I was riding in front until kilometer 80 and then Adrien arrived and we were riding together. So overall I think this was a good stage, a good performance in the first part of the marathon stage – it is always very hard to manage these days since we are on our own without any assistance from the team.”
Luciano Benavides dominated the results today, moving into the lead on time from around kilometre 50 before increasing that advantage all the way to the finish. Despite not collecting any bonus time for partly opening the stage from his eighth-place start position, Benavides topped the day’s timesheets by well over one minute, and now moves up to a provisional third in the overall rally standings. The 27-year-old will be tasked with opening day three of the event, the 303-kilometre second leg of the marathon stage.
“It was a really nice day today. The dunes were slower, more technical – but that’s how I prefer it. The day was tiring with the terrain proving to be really physical, especially as I was pushing hard from start to finish. It all paid off though and I was able to take my first stage win of this year’s race. My rhythm was good today and my confidence is high. Tomorrow, I’m opening the stage, so hopefully I can do a good job without losing too much time to the guys behind. I’ll get some rest now and give my all again tomorrow.”
Nacho Cornejo, second today at 1′17″, now sits fourth overall, with a single second separating Honda from a 100 per cent red podium in the provisional standings.
José Ignacio Cornejo
“It was a good stage today with another solid ride. I did my best to reach all the guys in front, that was not easy but I was able to make it. So I had a good day, felt good on the bike and I am happy with the results. I also have a good position for tomorrow and will fight for the bonus and keep battling until the end.”
As the fifth rider to enter the timed special this morning, Toby Price maintained a solid pace through the rolling dunes while aiming to conserve both himself and his KTM 450 RALLY on this first leg of the event’s marathon stage. The Australian slipped from third to sixth overall, almost four-minutes back, after finishing eighth on the day.
“Stage two has been good, but just like yesterday, I’m struggling to read the terrain a little and find a good rhythm. The dunes were very similar to stage one, with some having big drops on the far side and others just rolling nicely. It seems every time I try and get my head down and attack, I find one of the dunes with a huge drop and it knocks my confidence a bit. My pace is still good and I’m well in the race, I just need to stay focused and keep it up. Physically I feel great and on this first half of the marathon stage, the bike has been perfect. So all good to go ahead of tomorrow.”
A small technical issue cost Skyler Howes some time on the special, but the Dakar podium finisher was able to overcome the problem to place third on the stage and is now eighth outright but still under six-minutes downon the leader.
“It’s been a slightly stressful stage for me today. My pace out there was really good, especially in the first half of the special. When I came into the refuelling, I found I had a small leak and after investigating, it turned out that just a single rubber seal had torn slightly. It continued to leak for the rest of the stage, and because I was going to be tight on fuel towards the end, I did have to ease back a little, short shifting and trying to conserve as much gas as I could. At the end of the stage, we only had 30 minutes to work on our bikes, but thanks to the help from my teammate, I think we got the problem sorted. So, fingers crossed it holds for tomorrow as we have a long way to go.”
In the Rally2 category, Paolo Lucci (BAS World KTM Racing) prevailed over the rookie Tobias Ebster (SRG Motorsports). He also put some time into Jean-Loup Lepan (Duust Diverse Racing), Toni Mulec (BAS World KTM Racing) and Konrad Dąbrowski (Duust Diverse Racing). The Italian is over 14 minutes clear of Dąbrowski and almost 15 minutes ahead of Lepan in the W2RC standings for the race.
At the finish in the bivouac, as part of the marathon stage, the RallyGP riders were given half an hour to service their motorbikes without external support, while the Rally2 riders got an hour.
Tomorrow’s Stage 3 will keep the same competitive scheme, with another tour around Qasr Al Sarab and many dunes and sand to race in the depths of the Empty Quarter. Special stage will be 266 kilometres long plus liaison of 37 km. This is a very demanding challenge for all riders, since they are racing in marathon mode – meaning they can’t count on the assistance and back up from the team.
Stage 2 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023
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