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Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge dominated by Dakar champions

Andrea and Stephane Peterhansel

Abu Dhabi, April 5: History has been made at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with Stephane and Andrea Peterhansel (FRA/GER) the first married couple team to take an overall win at the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.

There was further success for the Red Bull Desert Wings squad at the five-stage rally with wins for Sam Sunderland (GBR) and Fahad Al Musallam (KUW) in the bike and quad contests respectively.

This was the first time Stephane and Andrea had teamed up to race in the car class of a cross-country rally. They had enjoyed success in side-by-side (SxS) racing previously, but this was a whole new ball game.

"Our strategy was to stay safe and we never got stuck in the dunes on any of the five days. We had no technical problems and we never lost the road," said Peterhansel.

Al Qassimi second

Al Qassimi second

It was soon apparent in the deserts of Abu Dhabi that Stephane's 13 Dakar Rally wins and Andrea's own wealth of off-road racing experience were going to stand the couple in good stead.

With Stephane at the wheel and Andrea giving pace notes, they hit the front following the second of five desert stages. While the chasing pack faltered, the winning duo kept their MINI John Cooper Works Rally on the right track and took the chequered flag at the Yas Marina Circuit ahead of local hero Khalid Al Qassimi and Frenchman Xavier Panseri in a Peugeot 3008 DKR.

Off-road experience

Off-road experience

"It was a huge experience and we're so happy to share this victory together. Thanks to the team and to everybody who brought us to this moment," said Andrea.

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 supreme

Sunderland supreme

Sunderland obliterated the opposition on the final leg, converting his slender 18 seconds overnight advantage into an 8 mins 20 secs winning margin from Argentinian 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.

Benavides impressive

Benavides impressive

The runners-up finish for the young Argentinian rider is the first FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship podium of his career and a moment to cherish.

"The team got a one-two finish so this is really good for us. I'm so happy and now it's time to enjoy a little bit," said Benavides.

 
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Story first published: Friday, April 5, 2019, 17:18 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 5, 2019
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