PETERHANSEL CLINCHES THIRD DESERT CHALLENGE VICTORY AS DESPRES WINS FOURTH BIKES TITLE IN UAE
Coma secures world bikes crown as Alheli, Al Shamsi give host country double cause for celebration
Dubai, UAE, 14th November, 2005: Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres completed a double French victory in the UAE Desert Challenge today while Spanish rider Marc Coma was crowned world champion and Yahya Alheli grabbed a well-deserved podium finish for the host country.
At the end of a 2,260km trail, Peterhansel scored his third cars victory in the event in four years, reaching the finish in Dubai with his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution a huge 3 hrs 2 mins clear of the second-placed BMW X5 of Spain's Jose Luis Monterde.
Again proving himself to be one of the top Arab cross country rallying specialists, Alheli took his ageing Chevrolet Pick-up to a fine third place. While he was 42 minutes further adrift of Monterde, he was almost 11 hours ahead of his nearest Arab challenger, team-mate Ahmed Bin Suqat in seventh place.
Dominant again in the battle of the trucks, the Kamaz team celebrated a superb fourth place overall thanks to the combination of Russians Vladmir Chagin, Stanislav Konopko and Eduard Nokolaev.
Securing his fourth Desert Challenge win in four years, Despres had a winning margin of 11mins 20 secs from a jubilant Coma who nursed his KTM through the event's final two stages today, knowing that a last-day disaster could have seen the world title slip away,
Another Frenchman, David Casteu, was a further 27 minutes behind in third place, claiming runner's up spot in the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship ahead of Despres.
"We've had five fantastic days of rallying and there have been a lot of great individual performances," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee. "It takes a huge team effort to put this event together and once again the team has been superb."
The Desert Challenge was sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Nissan Middle East - with the Nissan Patrol the rally's official car - Dubai Waterfront, an 81 million square metre development by Nakheel, Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, ADNOC, Emarat and Inmarsat, providers of satellite communications.
After winning the Dakar Rally for the second time in a row earlier this year, Peterhansel had since suffered a series of mechanical problems costing him victory in Argentina, Morocco and Spain as Bruno Saby cruised to the drivers' title in the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup.
While his thoughts were already on the next Dakar Rally start on New Year's Eve, Peterhansel was relieved and delighted to end his sequence of bad luck in the UAE. 'I'm very happy to win the rally," he said at the finish. "I have a great team behind me and it all looks good for Dakar. It was a perfect event for me."
"We came here with three aims, to push the car to the limit, to win the rally, and to set a strong test for myself, and we have done all three."
Roma admitted: "It has been very bad for me both physically and mentally because of the sickness. But I've learnt a lot and feel a lot more confident. One day I'll be up there with Stephane. Now I feel very happy for him."
Monterde said: "It's been a great rally for us. It feels like being No.1 because Stephane is in a different race. My experience on sand is getting better and I'll be back next year for the fifth time."
Smiling as ever at the finish, Alheli said: "I'm very happy with my position especially after the problems on day one. Even though my car is old it is good over the dunes but not fast on the flat. To get to a higher level I need a new car.
Victory in the bikes category had Despres feeling like a teenager, although he wasn't prepared to show it. "I'm really happy but since I'm not 18 years old I'm not jumping around," he said. "But I am very, very, happy."
Tired but elated, new world champion Coma said: "I didn't push a lot today. I needed to make certain I finished. Wins are not easy but my strategy was to complete each stage."
Castue, who had been accompanied throughout by a cuddly friend, said: "Today I played it safe and did not want to exert too much pressure. I'm very happy because it's been a good season. My teddy bear is happy and has been a good companion on the handlebars. It's especially for my children.
Norway's Pal Anders Ullevalseter rounded off his reign as world champion with fourth place ahead of Spain's Jordi Duran Codina and UAE-based British rider Dave McBride. The UAE's Khalid Khamis missed out on a top ten place, finishing 12th, but the host country tasted victory in the quads category, with Mohammed Al Shamsi winning from new world champion Ricardo Leal Dos Santos of Portugal.
<pre> Provisional results:
Cars: 1. Stephane Peterhansel (F), Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero 19:06:48 2. Jose Luis Monterde (E), Tiziano Siviero (I) BMW 22:09:17 3. Yahya Alhelei (UAE), Khalid Alkendi (UAE) Chevrolet Pick-up 22:51:24 4. Vladmir Chagin (RUS), Stanislav Konopko RUS), Eduard Nokolaev (RUS) Kamaz 25:29:16 5. Joost Van Cauwenberge (B), Didier Espeel (B) Toyota 26:59:25 6. Ronan Chabot (F), Gilles Pillot (F) Toyota 28:53:54 7. Ahmed Bin Suqat (UAE), Jassim Albalooshi (UAE) Chevrolet 33:44:47 8. Sven Knorr (D), Torateh Frohlich (D) ORCML 34:10:30 9. Sergey Reshetnokov (RUS), Aydar Belyaev (RUS), Sergey Savostin (RUS) Kamaz 35:15:53 10. Leonid Novitski (RUS), Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS) Mitisubishi 37:13:42
Bikes: 1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 19:40:47 2. Mark Coma (E) KTM 19:52:07 3. David Castue (F) KTM 20:19:45 4. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (N) KTM 20:26:20 5. Jordi Duran Codina (E) KTM 20:38:21 6. David McBride (GB) Honda 20:55:26 7. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 21:12:53 8. Lee Palmer (AUS) KTM 21:38:48 9. Miran Stanovnik (SLO) KTM 21:44:37 10. Oscar Polli (I) KTM 21:49:33