Another hot day in the great dunes of Liwa, on a day when many of the backmarkers in the general standings were able to pull back time from the leading riders. Kevin Benavides opened the track, while Paulo Gonçalves managed to post the day’s third fastest time.
The fourth and penultimate stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge once again played out in the vast sands of the Liwa desert, with 244.5 kilometres of the 370 total raced against the clock. It was a race of two markedly different parts. The first featured a heavy measure of dunes, some of the treacherous cut variety; the other, a more technical section taking the competitors to the end of the special, situated very close to the bivouac in Qsar al Sarab.
Kevin Benavides had taken the initiative earlier in the day with the group that opened the course. The Argentine, however, was unable to break away from the pack who rode together until the finish line. Meanwhile behind, other rivals took the opportunity to whittle down the difference with the leaders. Paulo Gonçalves, being one of them, proved to be the best Monster Energy Honda Team rider, posting third. After having fallen yesterday, the Portuguese rider made a cautious start to the day, but was soon in all-out attack mode, maintaining a cracking pace that allowed him to take third position.
Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo, fourth, and Michael Metge, fifth, likewise rode their best performances in this Desert Challenge. Ricky Brabec, sixth, held a solid pace ahead of Benavides, seventh place finisher on the day.
Tomorrow, Thursday, sees the fifth and final stage of this Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It will be a different special to the previous ones, given that riders will start out in rows, motocross-style. The stage will feature a total of 356 kilometres, including 218.6 km against the clock. They will finish the day at Yas Marina Circuit.
Kevin Benavides #2 – STAGE: 7th OVERALL: 3rd : « Today I opened for practically the whole stage, as I had caught up with frontrunners at kilometre 45. I did the best I could and I pushed hard to the end. I lost some time at the beginning and then I began to take the initiative. It was difficult to battle against the handicap of opening the track, as the riders from behind can take advantage of that. We will try to continue pushing tomorrow over the final stretches of the rally. »
Paulo Goncalves #4 – STAGE: 3rd OVERALL: 5th : « Today I started off prudently after the fall in the dunes yesterday – with a calm, safe pace. I enjoyed not having so much pressure to want to go fast and I focused on doing it right, without mistakes, I’m satisfied. We have one more race day left and up until now we have clocked up a 1000 kilometres of dunes; I couldn’t wait for a better test than this to see what state I am in after the injury I had last December. »
Ricky Brabec #11 – STAGE: 6th OVERALL: 6th : « I’ve realized that this a really dangerous rally. It’s really fast. More navigation would be key just to slow it down. The first 100k was a little bit dangerous and fast. I took it easy. It’s hard to read the undulations of the dunes. Then I saw the helicopter and the riders up ahead, so I pushed hard. Once you catch the group, it’s had to get away. We all arrived together and arrived well. »
Michael Metge #12 – STAGE: 5th OVERALL: 9th : « The first part was similar to the second stage special: large dunes and many of them cut. I haven’t completely understood how to read this type of dunes and therefore I didn’t start out so well at the beginning, but in the second part, which has been something more technical and without so many big dunes, is where I have been able to enjoy being behind the handlebars of the Honda CRF450 Rally. »
José Ignacio Cornejo #14 – STAGE: 4th OVERALL: 7th : « Today I had a good stage, the best for me since we started this rally. I felt that I had a better pace, I was able to read the desert faster, which is not easy at all. I made it back well, without any problems. I could have found that pace earlier, but we’re here to learn and improve, and I think that’s what I’m doing. Tomorrow we will accelerate right up to the final kilometre. »