Mar 29, 2018
|Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has completed the fourth and penultimate stage of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as runner-up, less than three-minutes from a potential stage victory. After opening the timed special, team-mates Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland finished eighth and ninth respectively.|
Stage four of the 2018 Desert Challenge proved to be one of the toughest yet for all competitors. Contested in the treacherous sand dunes of the Liwa Desert, the 244.49km timed special presented difficult terrain to read and navigate through, especially for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing ‘s Sam Sunderland who opened the stage following his win on the previous day.
After a difficult stage three, Toby Price set off 11th in the morning. The Australian, with plenty of tracks already laid down in the desert ahead of him, soon made his way through the field. Enjoying a good consistent pace despite still nursing a small injury from his crash earlier in the rally, Price was able to claw back some time on the competitors in front.
Arriving at the finish in second place, the 2016 Dakar Champion was pleased with his result and now looks ahead to tomorrow’s final stage.
Toby Price: “The bike performed really well today. I’m still suffering a little from my crash on Monday, but I managed to ride a good stage today. My back is stiff and sore and there are a lot of big dips in between dunes here that cause the bikes to bottom out. I am losing some time there because I have to take them a bit steady. All-in-all I’m happy, looking forward to the final stage and completing the rally tomorrow.”
Matthias Walkner was second onto the stage at dawn, but soon caught up with team-mate Sunderland following the Brit’s crash at the 10-kilometre marker. The pair ended up riding together with Walkner taking the lead due to Sam damaging his GPS. Keeping up a good pace, the KTM pairing completed the stage with Walkner finishing eighth and Sunderland one place behind in ninth.
Matthias Walkner: “That was a really tough stage for me today. Sam opened the stage, but after 10km he had a crash and I had to take the lead. It was really scary to navigate through all of the blind crests and drop-offs in the dunes. Towards the end we had been caught by a number of other riders and arrived at the finish in a group of six or seven. Riding like that creates a lot of dust, and I have started to get a lot of pain in my shoulder now too, so that made things even more difficult. We have a mass-start for tomorrow’s final stage so it will be tricky to make up any time on the guys in front. My plan is to keep to a good pace and get to the finish safely.”
Sam Sunderland’s ninth place was enough to retain second overall in the provisional overall standings. Entering tomorrow’s final stage, the 2017 Dakar Champion is looking for a consistent pace that will see him wrap up the event in the United Arab Emirates on a high note.
Sam Sunderland: “It was a disappointing day for me today. I had a crash right at the beginning of the stage and although I was lucky to come out of it relatively unhurt, it did end up costing me precious time and slowed me down for the rest of the special. Opening the stage is never easy but my plan was to try to find a good rhythm and stick to it. Unfortunately, there was a really blind drop-off on one of the dunes and I didn’t see it until the last minute. I came off the bike and damaged the navigation equipment, hurt my knee a little and split my camelback. I ended up riding the remaining 235km with no GPS and no water. All I can do now is learn from my mistake and move on. Tomorrow is a mass-start day so I’ll take it easy, get to the finish and hopefully hold on to second overall.”
Thursday’s stage five, the final of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, will cover a total of 356.06km, 218.57km of which will be timed special. Riders will finish at the famous Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Provisional Results Stage Four – 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:16:53
Provisional Standings – 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after 4 of 5 stages
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 14:03:06
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