UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge 2001
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies
FIM Cross Country Rallies World Cup -
SCHLESSER AND DESPRES EDGE AWAY IN UAE MARLBORO DESERT CHALLENGE
A second successive day of dense fog failed to restrict the determined performance of Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, who extended his advantage in the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, as the second section wound its way through the Eastern Deserts of the Rub Al- Khali region of the Southern United Arab Emirates.
Schlesser and French co-driver Henri Magne extended their advantage advantage to 14 minutes 14 seconds, as the defending World Champion strengthened his grip on a second successive world title on this final round of the FIA and FIM Cross Country Rallies World Cups.
Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt complained that the latter part of the stage had been too fast for her to use the traction advantage of the Mitsubishi Pajero, but she stayed in contention for the world title in second place.
In the Bikes category it was business as usual for runaway leader Cyril Despres on a factory KTM 660 Rallye. The Frenchman had crushed the opposition on Tuesday and was on the pace again from the outset of Wednesday's delayed 369 kms special.
His massive overnight advantage of 20m 30s had risen to 35 minutes after the day's stage. Sweden's PG Lundmark set the second fastest time on a powerful BMW R1150, although he admitted that the bike was a little too heavy for the dunes.
"The stage was very tough," said Despres. "Because we started later in the day the temperature was much higher and the sand in the dunes is very soft. I got stuck four or five times. Maybe it will be very difficult for the riders at the back of the field."
An exhausted Dave McBride finished the stage in second place and maintained a similar position. "That was the toughest stage I have ever done on the Desert Challenge," he admitted. "I am exhausted and have cramps. I got stuck twice and had to dig myself out in this heat."
Austrian rider Klaus Schwingenschloegl had started the day in sixth place on his KTM 660 and was still running well with the likes of Germany's Andrea Mayer, Frenchman Paul Rivet, Dubai-based Australian Grant Robertson and the UAE's Steve Blackney also inside the top 10.
In the new National category, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Japan's Kenjiro Shinozuka were using the section to test tyres and springs for the forthcoming Arras-Madrid-Dakar Rally. Fontenay beat his team mate by a little under two minutes to edge into the lead, after Shinozuka collected a puncture.
Leading Bikes had been scheduled to leave the overnight halt in Liwa at 05.45 on Wednesday morning, but dense fog again descended upon the sands of the UAE and the restart was delayed by four hours. As a result the organising team decided to reduce the stage from 504 kms to 364 kms with the finish control moved to the fifth passage control.
"It was the only decision we could make under the circumstances," said race director Kevin Monaghan. "We are in the hands of the gods as far as the weather is concerned. This event is proving tougher than some people may have imagined. This morning we recovered several riders from the desert who were too exhausted to continue - and that was after a mere 20 kms of the stage!"
Two Gulf-based riders are members of the British Diplomatic Corp. Simon Collis, riding a Honda 400 SR, is the British Consulate General in Dubai and team mate Charles Heatly is a member of the British Consulate in Yemen. They began today's section in 75th and 69th overall, respectively.
A number of riders hit problems over Tuesday's opening Manassir Plateau stage, with Britain's Lee Gregson and Italy's Oscar Polli taking stage maximum penalties of 35 hours. Japan's Atsushi Oyamada complained of carburettor problems on his Honda and the Kuwaiti 4x4 champion Nasser Al-Ajmi lost valuable time when he stopped to assist an unjured Turkish rider who had crashed in the sand. Senol Yuksel later received medical attention in the bivouac for minor rib and shoulder injuries.
There was disappointment for the 1999 FIA Middle East Group N rally champion Nizar Al-Shanfari in his Land Rover 110. The Omani driver complained about engine problems as early as the Prologue stage, but when the situation worsened he retired in Abu Dhabi.
The Eastern Desert section also marked the demise of the Dutch Mitsubishi Pajero driver Alex Jansen, entered in the T1 class with co-driver Henk Smit. Transmission problems dictated that they could only engage hi-ratio 4WD and decided to call it a day and return to Liwa.
There were no less than 21 nationalities present on the starting list this morning at the Liwa hotel, a testament to the international popularity of this event around the world.
Tomorrow's (Thursday) section through the Western Deserts of Rub Al-Khali is the most difficult in this year's UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge and features a number of tricky dune combinations, gatch roads, soft sand sections and several plains and ridges. A 26 kms run out from the bivouac takes crews into the day's 393 kms competitive section.
Event officials were carefully monitoring the regional weather forecast on Wednesday evening to determine whether thick fog would be a major factor in determining the actual starting times for the third successive day on Thursday.
The event is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander, with full support from Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence.
The UAE Desert Challenge has the full support of the UAE Government, Dubai and Abu Dhabi Municipalities, the UAE Armed Forces and has an impressive list of co-sponsors, including Oasis, Damas, Hyatt, Konica, Aramex, Ignacio Messina, Tahoe (GM), DTCM, Adnoc and Emarat.
Unofficial positions after SS2 (Eastern Desert - 364 kms):
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser/Henri Magne (Renault Megane) 7h 44m 14s
2. Jutta Kleinschmidt/Andreas Schultz (Mitsubishi Pajero) 7h 58m 54s
3. Yayha Bilhili/Khaled Al-Kendi (Chevrolet Tahoe) 10h 02m 40s
4. Jean-Pierre Strugo/Yves Ferri (Mercedes ML 430) 10h 05m 51s
5. Ahmed Soughat/Malik (Chevrolet Tahoe) 12h 33m 07s
1. Jean-Pierre Fontenay (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero 8h 10m 09s
2. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Thierry Delli-Zotti Mitsubishi Pajero 8h 11m 26s
1. Cyril Despres (France) KTM 8h 35m 10s
2. David McBride (UAE) KTM 9h 10m 43s
3. Paul Rivet (F) Honda 9h 26m 17s
4. Steve Blackney (UAE) Honda 9h 28m 15s
5. Fabio Benetti (I) KTM 9h 54m 27s
6. Andrea Mayer (D) KTM 9h 55m 57s
7. Hutten (NL) KTM 9h 56m 08s