Courtesy of KTM Racing
Sam Sunderland has maintained his overall lead in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, finishing fifth at the end of the second day of competition. Delivering the best result for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Luciano Benavides finished fourth fastest just over three minutes behind the day’s winner.
An early start greeted the riders for stage two in Abu Dhabi. Of the 434.19 total kilometres travelled, 222.80 were timed special stage, guiding riders through the dunes of the Liwa Desert. In slightly better conditions than the opening day, rally leader Sam Sunderland led competitors away from the bivouac and into the stage.
It was Luciano Benavides however that posted the fastest time of the Red Bull KTM team. Matching his fourth-place finish from the opening day, the 23-year-old successfully navigated his own way through the expansive dunes of the Liwa Desert. Ultimately, he posted a stage time of three-hours-and-16-minutes, less than four minutes from the stage winner. The Argentinian rider’s confidence continues to grow.
Luciano Benavides:“It was a good day for me today. I rode alone for the whole stage so I was able to learn a lot about this desert and how to read the dunes. I was able to maintain a good rhythm and I’m not too far away from the top guys so I’m happy with that. My pace is getting better and that’s very encouraging for the days ahead. My plan is to continue like this without any mistakes and arrive healthy at the end.”
Following on from his day one win, Sam Sunderland was the first to enter today’s stage. Navigating through the looped timed special that took riders around the Liwa oasis area, Sunderland led the majority of the route, only to be caught close to the finish. Despite the conditions being less than perfect, the 2017 Abu Dhabi winner showed excellent pace, posting the fifth fastest time for the day.
Sam Sunderland:“Starting first on the route is always going to be a disadvantage obviously, but I’m pleased with how I rode and believe I did a good job of opening the stage. I set a good pace all day and only got caught by Andrew at around kilometre 200, which is really good for leading out here in Abu Dhabi as it’s always quite tricky to navigate and easy to lose time when riding at the front. I am very pleased with how everything is going at the moment – the bike is perfect and the team are doing great. Hopefully the wind eases off a little as it makes everyone’s job a little harder, but it’s the desert and it can be expected. Looking forward to getting going again tomorrow.”
Stage three of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the longest of the rally, will cover 520.66km in total, of which 297.97km will be timed special stage in the dunes of the United Arab Emirates.
Provisional Results Stage Two – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 3:13:21
2. Joan Barreda (SPA), Honda, 3:15:04 +1:43
3. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 3:16:19 +2:58
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:16:51 +3:30
5. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:19:16 +5:55
6. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT), KTM, 3:23:38 +10:17
7. Aaron Mare (ZAF), KTM, 3:24:57 +11:36
Provisional Overall Standings (after Stage Two) – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 6:59:57
2. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 7:00:48 +0:51
3. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 7:04:09 +4:12
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 7:06:39 +6:42
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 7:20:17 +20:20
8. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE), KTM, 7:59:02 +59:05
9. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT), KTM, 8:08:34 +1:08:37
10. David McBride (GBR), KTM, 8:39:16 +1:39:19