Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory riders Pela Renet and Pablo Quintanilla both delivered a strong result in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Wednesday with Renet of France taking a career first rally stage win and Quintanilla taking control of the overall standings going into the final day.
Renet, who moved from world championship-level enduro racing at the end of last season to join the team’s newly formed rally squad was of course delighted with his result: “When they told me at the refuelling stop that I was doing a good time I just kept it going and it worked. In any case I’m really happy about it.”
The French rider, a proven enduro world champion has been steadily in the ascendency as the rally progresses. He made some small navigation mistakes in the opening stage on Sunday but since then has constantly improved his position. Wednesday’s stage win moved him from overall eighth to fifth and with a strong result in the last stage Thursday he still has the possibility to move up to fourth place.
Team Coordinator Daniel Trauner: “Pela was pushing very hard today and this win is a confirmation that he is on the right track. He is getting more and more confident and that is really important. The speed in today’s stage was not so fast and that helped him, but we are very pleased to see him take his first stage win.”
Meanwhile Quintanilla, the winner of stage two took the overall lead over his two potential rivals for the final victory, Australia’s Toby Price and British rider Sam Sunderland. He heads off on Thursday with a 2 minute 45 second advantage over second placed Price. Sunderland will also be snapping at his tailpipe as he trails by only 2.47.
Wednesday was however all about tactics. The first riders out each day carve very visible tracks in the sand dunes that are easy to follow, so navigation is not the same major issue that it is in other international events. Quintanilla is well aware of the task ahead and also knows that with the leading three riders so close together in the overall rankings, tactics will certainly play a big role in the final outcome. Although there will initially be riders ahead of the lead trio, Quintanilla will be first of them to start. “I will go with everything to hunt down those who open the track, but the others will do the same. The rally is still open and we have to wait to see what happens,” he said.
The Desert Challenge is the first round of the 2016 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, following which riders will change locations to Qatar to contest the Sealine Rally after a one-week break.
Results Stage Four Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2016
1. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, 3 hours 42.39
2. Jose Florimo Corneja (CHI), KTM, +4.0
3. Mo Al Balooshi (UAE), KTM, +6.11
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, +8.21
5. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +11.26
5. Txomin Arana Cobeaga (ESP), Husqvarna 4.04
Standings after Stage Four (of five)
1. Quintanilla, 15 hours 27.22
2. Price, +2.45
3. Sunderland, +2.47 seconds
4. Balooshi, +26.01
5. Renet, +29.30