Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla on Monday put his stamp on stage two of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, securing both the win and the overall lead after two of five stages in the opening round of the 2016 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Even early in the rally the competition has crystalized down to a three way contest between Quintanilla and two leading KTM riders, who after the two stages are still only three minutes apart in the overall points.
In what was an uncharacteristically cool and rainy day in the desert, the Chilean rider completed the 278.04 km stage in four hours 02.40, giving him a 2.17-minute advantage over Sam Sunderland and 3.57 on Sunday’s stage winner Toby Price.
Quintanilla said it had been a very positive step. “I won the special and have taken the lead in the overall standings. The race was technical, with dunes and a lot of dangers but I had the feeling right from the start that this was my day and I was able to keep up a fast pace right until the end.” He added: “Tomorrow I will open the track and it will be difficult to stay in front but I will try to continue this way.”
It was also a very positive day for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory teams recruit Pela Renet of France. He followed up his Sunday’s tenth place finish with an excellent fourth in the stage, and more importantly was just 5.42 off the pace of Quintanilla’s lead ride. Renet gained two places in the overall standings to move up to eighth, but trails by 34.10 after making some small navigation errors on Sunday.
Renet was satisfied with his second day’s ride, saying: “Today was all sand dunes, it’s so good! I’m happy to finish closer to the leaders.”
The rally continues on Tuesday when riders face another 370.23 km ride, 280.06 of which is under the clock. The competition concludes on Thursday.
Results Stage Two Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2016
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 4 hours 02.40 minutes
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +2.17 min
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, +3.57 min
4. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +5.42
5. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +8.47
Standings after Stage Two (of five)
1. Quintanilla, 7 hours 43.28 min
2. Sunderland, +1.43 min
3. Price, +2.48
4. Mo Al Balooshi (UAE), KTM 27.43
5. Txomin Arana Cobeaga (ESP), Husqvarna 28.15
8. Renet, +34.10