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Gerlain Chicherit on way to winning the second stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Wednesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: After Tuesday’s gruelling stage, which saw several competitors caught out by unexpectedly soft sand, Wednesday’s ADNOC Distribution Stage 2 saw Guerlain Chicherit winning the stage, but overnight leader Nasser Al Attiyah held on to his overall lead in the 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The Stage 2 from Madinat Zayed to Mezaira’a covered a total of 365 kilometres, including 248 kilometres of special stages.

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The first part of Stage 2 saw dunes formed by tricky to read soft sand, complete with steep drop-offs. Then, after the first refuelling stop, the course crossed over into the rolling Liwa Valley ahead of a highly challenging final section with some big, technical dunes that also featured deceptive crests and unexpected ridges, a brutal combination that demanded supreme control and confidence.

Difficult terrain

In the ADNOC Distribution stage, Overdrive Racing’s Chicherit finished two minutes 44 seconds ahead of ahead of the Qatari ace on his Nasser Racing by Prodrive, while Seth Quintero and Lucas Moraes put their factory Toyota Gazoo Racing cars in third and fourth places respectively. Juan Cruz Yacopini and Yazeed Al Rajhi and their Hiluxes finished over 7 minutes down.

Al Attiyah maintains the overall lead of the ADDC, by over eight minutes over Moraes, who is followed by Yacopini, Quintero, Al Rajhi, while Chicherit made the most of his late starting position to surge up the field to sixth place. Guillaume de Mevius, starting the morning in second, lost the most from the day after having to quit the special.

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Big, technical dunes that also featured deceptive crests and unexpected ridges tested the competitors in Stage 2. Image Credit: Supplied

Mansour Al Helei (RX-Sport) is leading SSV category after a second-place finish on Wednesday. Together with Abdulaziz Ahli’s triumph in the quad race, this means the Emiratis are leaders in a FIM and an FIA category, the first UAE national double topper of the week.

Crashing out

Early incidents in the bikes saw both Tobias Ebster and Michael Docherty out of the race. Ebster failed to show up at the start following his crash on Tuesday, while Docherty crashed after five kilometres of the special stage and was helped by Aaron Mare (Hero MotoSports) and Konrad Dąbrowski (Duust Rally), who showed a fine example of the camaraderie that characterises the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge by stopping to assist.

Both riders then got going again after spending around 30 minutes with Docherty and will benefit from 30 and 25 minutes of compensation, respectively, for assisting the South African rider.

Justin Gerlach
Germany's Justin Gerlach flips over during the second stage.

UAE riders in contention

Ahead of them, Jean-Loup Lepan remained glued to the wheel of provisional stage winner Ross Branch and came home 3 minutes behind the Zimbabwean. For the final result, Mare was declared the winner and Dąbrowski second.

Two of the four Vendetta Racing UAE riders still in contention are in the top 10 overall following stage 2. Britain’s Thomas Childs rose to eighth place, 54 seconds ahead of his countryman William McBride in ninth. Their Irish teammate Oran O’Kelly produced a solid performance to finish fifth on the day. UAE Quad hero Abdulaziz Ahli won his second stage, this time by a margin of nine minutes and 50 seconds over Kamil Wiśniewski.

Thursday’s Abu Dhabi Sports Council Stage 3 is a daunting 414 kilometre loop around Liwa City, with 251 kilometres of special stages, and is 52 per cent dunes. This means that the competitors will be contending with challenging crests, as well as the fierce heat and changes in the sand.