Cox and Peterhansel win opening desert stage of UAE Desert Challenge. The French duo of Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres drew first blood in the Cars and Motos categories on the opening stage of this year's UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, but the major drama centred around Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka, who rolled his new Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution on its world debut.
The event is the final round of both the FIA and FIM World Championships for Cross Country rallies and is being held under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander and the patronage of General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence.
The international entry from 29 countries was flagged away this morning by Sheikh Nasser Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan before heading deep into the Abu Dhabi desert to Hameem for the start of a 313 kms competitive section to a finish to the east of Liwa.
In the Cars category, Peterhansel drew first blood over the testing opening section in the second Pajero Evolution, although his team mate rolled his Pajero 100 kms into the stage. "The car flipped hard over two jumps and the back end came over," said Masuoka. "It was not too fast, but we landed on the roof." Slight damage was caused to the roof and bodywork and Masuoka lost further time soon afterwards with a flat tyre, but maintained second position.
The UAE's Khalifa Al-Motaiwi was in flying form in the Team Dessoude Nissan Pick-Up, despite finishing the stage on three tyres and a wheel rim. "I hope to surprise a few people with my performance this week," said the Dubai driver Al-Motaiwi held third overall, ahead of the Mitsubishi trio of Jean-Pierre Fontenay, Miki Biasion and Portugal's Carlos Sousa.
Last year's winning Frenchman Cyril Despres was followed into the stage by KTM rivals David McBride and South African Alfie Cox, but he finished the gruelling section in searing heat just five seconds behind Cox.
"I had a little problem after 30 kms when I lost my way," said Despres.
"I read the road book wrong. I was passed by McBride and Alife and then tried to catch them up. It was a fight to make up the lost time." McBride, runner-up last year, was content with third through the section.
"It was hard work out there today," said the Dubai-based rider. "There was some heavy sand out there. It will just be nice to finish." The UAE's Tim Trenker and Italyu's Antonio Colombo completed the top five.
<pre> Positions after SS1 (Manassir Plateau):
CARS 1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 2h 43m 02s 2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Andreas Schultz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 2h 49m 58s 3. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 2h 52m 08s 4. Jean-Pierre Fontenay (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero 2h 54m 07s 5. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero 2h 56m 35s 6. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 3h 14m 37s
BIKES 1. Alfie Cox (KTM) 3h 20m 22s 2. Cyril Despres (KTM) 3h 20m 27s 3. Dave McBride (KTM) 3h 27m 39s 4. Tim Trenker KTM) 3h 32m 22s 5. Antonio Colombo (KTM) 3h 36m 46s -duby miller