Courtesy of KTM Racing
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland has increased his overall lead in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with a win on the long third stage of the rally. Teammate Luciano Benavides improves to second overall with a fourth-place finish.
Marking the halfway point of the event, stage three of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge offered riders a long, 297.97 kilometre timed special that would once again test both endurance and navigational skills. Despite an early morning start, competitors also had to face rising temperatures as the day progressed, adding to the challenge of the rally.
As the fifth rider away, Sam Sunderland immediately set about chasing down the riders ahead. The experienced rally racer navigated superbly through the dunes, eventually catching the group and ultimately reaching the finish together. Posting a time close to three minutes faster than second-placed Kevin Benavides, Sam now leads the provisional overall rankings by almost 13 minutes.
Sam Sunderland:“Everything went well today, the weather has been a lot better with less wind, so visibility has improved. I’m feeling really good, I am really comfortable on the bike and my pace is solid, the team are doing an excellent job as usual. That’s stage three done and we are past the halfway stage, but we still have two long days to go, so I need to stay focused right up to the last kilometre. There are a lot of traps out there and this race can easily catch you out.”
Displaying excellent form on the long timed special, Luciano Benavides capitalised on his start position to put in a superb performance on stage three and finished fourth, elevating himself to second overall in the provisional standings. Happy with his pace, the young Argentinian knows he must stay consistent as the rally progresses in order to secure a strong final result.
Luciano Benavides:“It was a really good day for me today, it was very long – I think we did over 450 kilometres in total. For the first 100 kilometres of the stage I was riding on my own, but then Sam caught me and I tried to stay on his wheel from then on. We rode like that for the rest of the stage and finished together. I think we did a good job today and it has put me in a good position in the overall so the plan is to continue to focus and try not to make any mistakes and stay there for the rest of the rally.”
Stage four of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will cover 520.66km in total, including a 286.10km timed special in the dunes of the United Arab Emirates.
Provisional Results Stage Three – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 4:00:27
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 4:03:18 +2:51
3. Aaron Mare (ZAF), KTM, 4:04:47 +4:20
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:06:33 +6:06
5. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT), KTM, 4:08:31 +8:04
10. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE), KTM, 4:19:54 +19:27
Provisional Overall Standings (after Stage Three) – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 11:00:24
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 11:13:12 +12:48
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 11:13:15 +12:51
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 11:23:35 +23:11
5. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 11:45:00 +44:36
8. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT), KTM, 12:17:05 +1:16:41
9. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE), KTM, 12:18:56 +1:18:32
10. Aaron Mare (ZAF), KTM, 34:09:44 +23:09:20