Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel yesterday stretched their overall advantage in a Toyota Hilux to 23 minutes 48 secs with an eye on Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge title for the second time in their careers.
Fastest on the 251 km Abu Dhabi Aviation stage yesterday, Al Attiyah and Baumel have won all four of the stages so far in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge concludes its 30th-anniversary journey today.
In contrast, new FIM world champion Matthias Walkner has not won a stage so far in the rally’s 30th edition, although a fourth second-best bikes time on a KTM extended his lead to 3mins 49.6 secs over Australian GasGas rider Daniel Sanders.
Another stage win on the final leg could be enough to present Toyota Hilux driver Al Attiyah with the last ever drivers’ crown in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies before the series is upgraded to a world championship rally raid status next year.
But he must avoid a repeat of his final day exit in 2017, or leave the door open for his two remaining title rivals, Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez (Toyota Hilux Overdrive) and Saudi Arabia’s fourth-placed Yazeed Al Rajhi who trails the Qatari by 1hr 17mins with Britain’s Michael Orr in another Toyota Hilux Overdrive.
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk, second overnight in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy, saw their hopes of at least a podium finish ruined by mechanical problems among the Al Dhafrah dunes, finishing the day in 12th.
Al Attiyah said: “We are quite happy to have a lead. Tomorrow is another day and if we can win the stage it will be good to get one point extra which will help in the championship. Every day we learn something new, which is good for me and Mathieu and for the future.”