ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge served up another dramatic episode on Monday as Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides built on his hope for a first bikes win and demonstrated a great deal of heroism, while Stephane Peterhansel held course for a record seventh cars victory.
The 318-kilometer ADNOC Distribution Special Stage 2 saw Nasser Al-Attiyah on four wheels and Ross Branch on two record the fastest times, 24 hours after both had crashed out of overall contention.
It was a day when Benavides showed a commendable selfless streak by stopping for more than 20 minutes to assist overnight bikes leader Michael Docherty after his heavy fall, before resuming to take the overall lead.
Credited at the end with the time he gave up to help Docherty, the KTM star now holds a 4 minutes 23 seconds advantage over American Ricky Brabec, with Chile’s Ignacio Cornejo another 41 seconds away in third place.
The top six was completed by previous champions Sam Sunderland on a GasGas and Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla, followed by the other Benavides brother, Luciano, on a Husqvarna.
Peterhansel, fourth quickest on the stage in an Audi RS Q e-tron, finished the leg with a reduced outright cars advantage of 7:49 from Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi in a Toyota Hilux.
Czech Martin Prokop was third, 15:50 off the lead in his Ford Raptor RS Cross Country.
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy and Mathieu Serradori in a Century CR6 completed the provisional top five.
Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, whose victory ambitions on his Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge debut were buried by a series of first leg mechanical problems, recovered to set the second-fastest time on the day in his Prodrive Hunter.
Reaching the finish in his Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah said: “Now we will try and win every day to take maximum points like we did today. We did quite a good job, I am quite happy. We have to now work for the points. Today we won five and I hope to win five points tomorrow as well.
“It’s a disappointment not to win the rally because it is my favorite rally. We need to accept what happened yesterday. This is a motorsport. Now we must try to push the limit of the car, like we did it today.”
It was another superb day for Emirati rider Abdulaziz Ahli, as the defending quads champion on a Yamaha Raptor extended his lead over Slovakia’s Juraj Varga, to a massive 1:24:12 lead.
Dubai-based Docherty deservedly stood in the rally spotlight as the overall bikes leader at the end of the previous day’s desert stage, after winning the Saturday qualifier.
Starting today’s stage was always going to be difficult, however, because of the navigational demands this brings, and the South African rider had already been overtaken by Mathias Walkner when he crashed.
Benavides stopped to assist him before the medical team arrived at the scene, and Docherty was evacuated by helicopter to Madinat Zayed hospital.
Benavides said at the finish: “It was really long and hot today. I stopped to help Michael when he crashed, and waited for medical aid to arrive. On a good note, it looks like my brother had a great ride, so I am happy.”
Branch commented: “It was a good day for me. I rode smoothly and consistently trying to minimize mistakes after yesterday errors and crash. Today my riding was much better.”
Another South African, Bradley Cox, who was fastest in the Rally 2 category on the day, also crashed and was taken to hospital by helicopter. But Branch, who was evacuated from yesterday’s stage for a hospital checkup, was cleared to restart today and was quickly back up to
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