Dakar heavyweights power to Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge triumphs

Stéphane Peterhansel, Sam Sunderland and Chaleco López all grabbed victories at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as the likes of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Cristina Gutiérrez also impressed at the second stop of the 2022 World Rally-Raid Championship.

– Five desert stages, measuring a combined 1,500 kilometres, pushed a convoy including cars, bikes and side-by-side vehicles to the limit with plenty of running repairs made during the rally.

– Serial Dakar winner Peterhansel made history in the car category as the Frenchman became the first driver to win a cross-country rally-raid in a T1-E category car, promoting sustainable energies in the sport.

– Peterhansel, 56, and co-driver Edouard Boulanger (FRA) kept their Audi RS Q e-tron and its electrified drivetrain on the pace throughout as reigning Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) hit dunes and was unable to complete the opening stage in his Toyota Hilux but returned to the race the following day and won all four remaining stages.

– He said: “To win a cross-country rally-raid with an electric car shows how far we have come in a short space of time. This is a new generation of car and a new page of the book of rally-raid.”

– Off-road legend Sébastien Loeb (FRA) stuck to his task after a tricky start and recorded four podium finishes in his BRX Hunter alongside navigator Fabian Lurquin (BEL) to end in fourth place, which puts him in the lead of the 2022 World Rally-Raid Championship by one point.

– Getting the better of the magical Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter desert) in the bike race was Briton Sunderland as the GasGas Factory rider extended his title lead on the back of his recent Dakar triumph.

– Sunderland, 32, said: “It feels great to get another win and extend my lead in the championship. It also feels good to be able to reward the team like this because they have all worked so hard.”

– Red Bull KTM Factory Racing squad riders Toby Price (AUS) and Matthias Walkner (AUT) finished in fourth and fifth place overall respectively with Kevin Benavides (ARG) in 13th overall after a technical issue.

– It was another classy performance by López (CHL) in the T3 lightweight vehicles class as he extended his title lead with another victory to add to his Dakar win earlier this year leaving close rival Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) in second as she pushed López all the way through the desert.

– López, 46, said: “I’m really happy to finish this super tough rally with a winning result. A result like this gives us great confidence for all the hard work to be done this year.”

– Gutiérrez’s Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team-mate Seth Quintero (USA) picked up his first-ever World Rally-Raid Championship overall podium result to maintain third place in the championship.

– Sadly, there were early retirements for the two other Off-Road Junior Team crews of Guillaume de Mevius (BEL) and Tom Colsoul (BEL) as well as Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) and Ola Fløene (NOR).

– The Red Bull Desert Wings squad will next be in 2022 World Rally-Raid Championship action at the Andalucía Rally from June 7-12.

2022 World Rally-Raid Championship Standings

Cars

1. S. LOEB (FRA) BRX 112

2. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 111

Bikes

1. S. SUNDERLAND (GBR) GAS GAS 63

2. P. QUINTANILLA (CHL) HONDA 46

3. M. WALKNER (AUT) KTM 35

T3

1. F. LOPEZ CONTARDO (CHL) CAN-AM 141

2. C. GUTIERREZ (ESP) OT3 116

3. S. QUINTERO (USA) OT3 97

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