ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari got his challenge for honours at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge underway on a short super special stage, held within the confines of the Yas Marina race circuit, on Saturday afternoon.
Driving a South African-built Nissan Navara, the Saudi Arabian driver and Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid carded a time of 1min 19.1sec over the short tarmac stage, which will have little effect on the eventual result of the six-day desert round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies that will bear its teeth to all the competitors from tomorrow (Sunday) through to Thursday.
Al-Dossari, who was classified in 11th position after the short stage, said: The super special at Yas Marina was a tarmac stage and this does not suit the four-wheel drive cars. I took it easy on this stage, because it is easy to make a mistake and lose the rally. You do not win the rally on this stage. The big fight starts tomorrow. I will try and push for a top three finish.
The joint stage win fell to the defending champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Poland’s early FIA World Cup leader Jakub Przygonski in a time of 1min 11.1sec. England’s Harry Hunt rounded off the top three with a time of 1min 13.7sec.
The real meat of the action takes place over five demanding desert stages through some of the remotest dune complexes and sand trails in the UAE. Crews will tackle a 276km taster on Sunday, starting south of Abu Dhabi and finishing close to the purpose-built bivouac at Qasr Al-Sarab.