De Mevius, Dabrowski Move Ahead in UAE Desert Challenge
McRae, Kleinschmidt, Coma find disaster in the Empty Quarter
Moreeb Hill, Liwa, UAE, October 12, 2004: Belgium's Gregoire DeMevius and Poland's Marek Dabrowski swept into the lead in the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge today (Tuesday) as a spectacular and thoroughly demanding second special stage claimed a number of casualties, including former World Rally Champion Colin McRae.
DeMevius powered his Nissan Pick-up almost eight minutes ahead of the UAE's overnight leader, Khalifa Al Mataiwie, whose second position in a BMW X5, five minutes clear of former World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen of Finland in a Volkswagen Touareg, kept him well on course for the drivers' title in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.
Dabrowski meanwhile took his KTM into a lead of 3mins 21 secs from Spain's Isidre Esteve in the bikes battle while Norway's Pål Anders Ullevålseter climbed from fifth overnight to third as he moved closer to the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship title.
On a day when giant dunes, soft sand and scorching temperatures in the Empty Quarter combined to make this a severe desert challenge, the two men to suffer most were McRae, who found disaster in his Nissan Pick-Up, and overnight bikes leader Marc Coma of Spain.
After initially setting a fierce pace which saw him overtake his Nissan team-mate DeMevius, McRae came to a grinding halt in the dunes with suspected engine problems. He was unable to re-start the car and with time ticking away was in danger of going out of the event.
Coma was in no mood to discuss the problems which cost him around two hours when he eventually finished the stage, and rode his KTM straight back to the Moreeb Hill bivouac, near the Liwa oasis, with his chances of victory shattered.
The start had been delayed for almost two hours by early morning fog, and as a result the organisers reduced the length of the stage by over 50kms.
Top German lady driver Jutta Kleinschmidt, fifth overnight in the cars standings, also plummeted out of contention when her Volkswagen Touareg broke its steering rack 50km into the stage. She was forced to return to the bivouac for repairs to allow her to start the third stage with huge time penalties tomorrow, a similar fate to that suffered by defending champion Stephen Peterhansel on the previous day. Having a better day for Volkswagen was Kankkunen, who climbed one place to third, just ahead of the Mitsubishi Pajero Montero of Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka who set the fastest time on the day.
DeMevius reached the end of the stage to say:"Yesterday I was very, very happy, today I just feel good. The sand was very soft, at the upper limits for driving. The big dunes made it very difficult." Al Mutaiwie said: "With the world title in sight every noise from the engine sounds ten times worse than normal. It was really hard, especially in the big dunes. I pushed hard only in the dunes so I wouldn't get stuck."
Making his debut in the event, like McRae, Kankkunen said: "It was a very difficult stage because of the big climbs and the big drops. Today I wouldn't have liked to be on a bike. I have never competed in such heat even in the Safari Rally. This is a great, great test for the Dakar Rally."
Homing in on the world bikes title, Ullevålseter admitted: "It's a case of consolidation for me. I don't want to push and crash. The sand is much softer than usual and it was certainly the right decision to cut the stage short."
<pre> Provisonal leading positions after 2nd special stage:
Auto 1. Gregoire De Mevius, Jacky Dubois (BE/F) Nissan Pick Up T2 6:49:23 2. Khalifa Al Mutaiwei, Alain Guehennec (UAE /F) BMW T2 6:57:20 3. Juha Kankkunen, Juha Repo (FIN) Volkswagen T2r 7:02:33 4. Hiroshi Masuoka, Andreas Schulz (J) Mitsubishi Evolution T2 7:02:49 5. Andrea Mayer, Henri Magne (D/F) /F Mitsubishi Pajero T2r 7:55:07 6. Ahmed Bin Suqat, Jassim Ben Gharib (UAE) Cheverolet Pick Up T2 8:11:55 7. Mark Powell, Tim Ansell (GB) Land Rover T2 8:20:00 8. Naglis Janis, Innus Aleksandrs (LV) Mitsubishi Pajero T2r 8:21:01 9. Sergey Shmakov, Sergey Mishin (RU) Honda Buggy T2 9:23:00
Moto 1. Marek Dabrowski (PO) KTM 660 Rallyr 7:27:06 2. Isidre Esteve (ES) KTM 660 Rally 7:30:27 3. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (NO) KTM 660 Rallyr 7:40:37 4. David McBride (GB) KTM EXC 7:43:02 5. Jacek Czachor (PO) KTM 660 Rallyr 7:46:23 6. Tim Trenker (D) KTM Rally 7:52:06 7. Sean Linton (GB) KTM 660 Rally 7:58:32 8. Steven Blackney (GB) KTM 660 Rallyr 8:05:19