Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla cemented his position as a main contender In the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in stage three on Tuesday to finish fourth in the stage and third overall. The Chilean, clearly at home in the sand dunes of the Gulf State, was just one minute 15 seconds off the provisional leader when riders competed the 280.6 km timed special. As the stage two winner it was his job to open the track for Tuesday’s stage.
With just two stages to go to complete what is the opening round of the 2016 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, Quintanilla is still one of the top three potential winners and is locked in battle with the Tuesday’s two front-runners Toby Price of Australia and British rider Sam Sunderland.
After Tuesday’s stage three, Quintanilla admitted that it was going to be a tight battle right to the finish on Thursday. “I have two days to pull back the time in my favour but it won’t be easy at this level and the pace is very even,” he remarked referring to his battle with Price and Sunderland.
It was also another good day for the team’s newest factory rider, Pela Renet of France, who after some small time adjustments was ranked ninth in the stage, seven minute 45 behind the leader, and is now eighth overall. Renet, a former enduro world champion is quickly making the adjustment to his new discipline, according to Team Coordinator Daniel Trauner: “Pela spent a lot of time riding alone today so there was a lot of navigation and that’s good for him because it’s a learning process. We are in a good position with both our riders and although anything can happen in the next two stages, Pablo (Quintanilla) is well placed to fight for the win. The important thing now is that they both need to stay concentrated and very focused for the rest of the rally.”
What finally evolves on Thursday at the finish line could also be as much about tactics as about speed. It was up to Quintanilla as the winner of stage two to open the track for the timed special in stage three. As he was responsible for laying down the first tyre trails on the dunes, it saw his close rivals gain some time on him. Likewise stage winner Helder Rodrigues started way back in the field but with a well-marked trail already across the dunes he was largely relieved of navigating duties. Meanwhile, Quintanilla is still positioned very close to the two leaders and he has two more stages to catch and pass the two leaders..
Results Stage Three Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2016
1. Helder Rodrigues (POR), Yamaha 3 hours 48.50
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, +1 second
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +2.03 min
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 4.04
5. Txomin Arana Cobeaga (ESP), Husqvarna 4.04
9. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +7.45
Standings after Stage Three (of five)
1. Price, 11 hours 35.07
2. Sunderland, +57 seconds
3. Quintanilla, +1.15 min
4. Mo Al Balooshi (UAE), KTM, +29.30
5. Txomin Arana Cobeaga (ESP), Husqvarna 29.30
8. Renet, +39.06