Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team’s Pablo Quintanilla on Thursday wrapped up an intense week of desert riding in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to finish overall second in the opening round of the FIM Cross-Countries Rally World Championship. The result laid the groundwork for the Chilean rider to successfully defend his 2016 world title.
This week Quintanilla finished 6:13.7 minutes behind the winner, British rider Sam Sunderland after five days of tough riding in the soft dunes around Abu Dhabi. Austrian rider Matthias Walkner was third overall. The three riders finished in the same order in the final stage, which included a timed special of 234 km.
Pablo Quintanilla: “I’m very happy with this result, and about the race and my feeling with the bike. It was very good for my confidence to feel strong again, and that’s important. It’s also important to start the world championship in a positive way, and I think we did this. I feel a lot of support from everybody, and the atmosphere in the team was very good. Now I feel strong, and I can fight for the wins again. I think it’s important to take a rest and to think about what we did and how we can improve in the future.”
Quintanilla’s teammate Pela Renet wrapped up his rally with a confident overall fifth, but also with a stage win on day two, and was second on day four.
Pela Renet: “I’m quite happy with this rally even though I finished in the same place as I did last year. But it’s completely different because I’m much closer to the guys in front and this is really the point. I feel I made a lot of progress and I’ve improved, and this is really good for my confidence. I think I’ve made a positive start, and I just want to keep going like this in each race. The team was great and worked well, and I believe this is also the key to our success.”
The first four days of the rally, the first of five rounds that make up the 2017 world championship was run under extremely high temperatures, which added another level of difficulty for the riders. The factory team will now move on to contest round two in Qatar from April 17-22.
Stage 5 – Abu Dhabi Aviation Special: 234.01 km
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 2:40.20.0 h
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna + 5.59.0 min
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, + 8.58.0
4. Paolo Gonçalves (POR), Honda + 12.26.0
5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna + 14.56.0
Overall Standings (after five stages)
1. Sunderland 18:14.32.5 h
2. Quintanilla +6.13.7 min
3. Walkner + 8.16.1
4. Gonçalves +11.10.8
5. Renet + 14.50.8