Qatar’s Adel Abdulla completed the opening 276.01km desert selective section of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in second position in the T2 standings after a measured drive in difficult conditions.
With the later morning start, the car drivers had to endure the worst of the midday heat in the UAE desert and that made the sand even softer and more treacherous than usual.
Adel’s rented and near-standard Nissan Safari Y61 is not ideally suited to these conditions, but the Qatar and navigator Nasser Al-Kuwari maintained their composure and conserved the vehicle without taking risks to complete the stage in 4hrs 52min 37sec. A niggling exhaust issue forced them to stop on several occasions and cost valuable minutes.
That dropped them to second position – 30min 33sec behind Saudi Arabian rival Ahmed Shegawi – but there are four long stages remaining before the finish on Thursday afternoon at Yas Marina. Both Russia’s Yuliya Khegay-Migunova and Romania’s Claudia Laurentiu Barbu hit trouble on the stage.
Adel said: Today was a good day for us because we did not get stuck. But, unfortunately, we had some problems with the car. It’s a rental car and I suppose this can be expected.
Until PC2, I think we were leading and then we heard something wrong with the exhaust. When we drove fast, we could see some smoke coming inside the car and we thought there could be a fire, so we stopped to check several times to check the car.
On the last part of the stage, before PC3, we start to hear the exhaust knocking on the car and we stopped after the PC for a time and lost a lot of time. Still, we have four days to go and 30 minutes on the Desert Challenge is nothing. Tomorrow, we will try to push again.
Adel Abdulla is running his T2 programme with the crucial support of the Qatar government, the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and Ooredoo Qatar.
Competitors will remain at the Qasr Al-Sarab bivouac for the next four nights and tackle the longest special of the entire event a loop of 287.92km through the towering sand dunes of the Liwa Desert – on Monday.
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge T2 positions after SS1:
1. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Toyota Land Cruiser, 4hrs 23min 31.7sec
2. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Nissan Patrol, 4hrs 54min 05.6sec
3. Yuliya Khegay-Migunova (RUS)/Aldis Vilcans (LVA) Toyota LC 200, 6hrs 08min 41.5sec
TBA. Laurentiu-Claudiu Barbu (ROU)/Paul-Nicusor Spirodon (ROU) Nissan Navara.