Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland has won a hot and gruelling stage three of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Matthias Walkner, having been caught by Sunderland, crossed the finish line second, three-minutes down on his team-mate.
Following his crash on yesterday’s stage two, Toby Price did his best to conserve energy today, whilst keeping to a good speed through the desert. His pace placed him within the top-five at many of the early waypoints. After stopping to help a fellow rider, the 2016 Desert Challenge winner eventually placed 11th, with the time lost being credited to him at the finish. Price now lies eighth in the overall standings.
“The stage was good today, I got through the first half feeling really comfortable on the bike and setting a good pace through the steep dunes. I am suffering a little after the crash I had yesterday so I’m certainly not riding at 100%, but all-in-all things are going well. On the second half of the stage Balooshi had a crash in front of me and I stayed with him for a little while to assist. Luckily, he is going to be ok and is not too badly hurt. I’ll take the last two days as they come and just try to conserve myself and get to the finish so I can let my body recover.”
Stage three of the 2018 Desert Challenge saw riders cover numerous large sand dunes in the Liwa Desert, just south of Abu Dhabi. Comprised of deep, soft sand and steep drop-offs, the first half of the stage rewarded careful navigation and the ability to read the terrain. The 281.38km timed special proved to be one of the toughest of the rally so far in the heat of the United Arab Emirates sun.
Setting off fifth this morning, Sam Sunderland immediately pushed to catch the four riders in front of him. The Brit’s pace placed him first at every waypoint through the timed special and it wasn’t long until he caught the front-runners. After catching team-mate Matthias Walkner just after the refuelling stop, the pair raced on together ultimately claiming the top-two positions come the finish. Sunderland now leads the provisional overall standings by over seven-minutes.
“That was another long, hot day in the sand for the bike and my body. I am feeling good though and I’m really happy to win the stage and put some time between myself and the others. My start position helped a lot today, I was able to push right from the start and chase down the guys in front. Obviously, it means I will be opening the stage tomorrow, but we still have two days of riding left. I’ll continue to push on and we’ll see what happens at the end of the rally.”
Placing second today, 2018 Dakar Champion Matthias Walkner rode an excellent stage three. Maintaining a fast and consistent pace, the Austrian covered the 281km stage in just over three-an-a-half hours of riding – enough to move him up to second overall in the standings, over two-minutes ahead of third-placed Kevin Benavides.
“Today went well for me. The stage covered some deep sand and the speed through the dunes was not so fast so we chose a different tyre and it performed really well. I managed to find a good rhythm and was able to keep to that pace for most of the day. Sam caught me in the second half of the special so we ended up riding together and were able to push on a little more. We caught the other guys in front around kilometre 220 and so I’m really happy to take second position for the day. I have a little pain in my shoulder, but I’ll rest up now and then we will prepare for tomorrow.”
After the two KTM men there were five Honda riders headed by Kevin Benavides with Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finishing the stage eighth.
In the overall rankings Benavides is also third while Quintanilla is fourth outright.
Stage four of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will cover a total of 390.66km, 244.49km of which will be timed special stage.
2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Provisional Results Stage Three
SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM 3:29’52
WALKNER Matthias AUT Red Bull KTM +6’03
BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda +9’01
BRABEC Ricky USA Monster Energy Honda +9’35
GONCALVES Paulo POR Monster Energy Honda +9’54
CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda +11’29
METGE Michael FRA Monster Energy Honda +11’36
QUINTANILLA Pablo CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally +12’02
GIEMZA Maciej POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +28’40
MCBRIDE David GBR Vendetta Racing UAE +35’38
PRICE Toby (AUS), Red Bull KTM, +35:51
2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after 3 of 5 stages
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