CC Chicherit and Despres lead after day one in Abu Dhabi

News Release 10: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2009
Leg 1:  Abu Dhabi to Tal Mureeb - selective section, 270.60km

For immediate release
Monday March 23rd, 2009


·McBride leads 450cc bike class; Sebastien Husseini on top in the quads
·Mohammed Ben Sulayem flags teams away from Abu Dhabi start
·Strong winds and shifting sand add to first day difficulties

TAL MUREEB (UAE): BMW X-raid's top-seeded Guerlain Chicherit and Frenchman Cyril Despres led the car and motorcycle categories after the opening 442.30km leg of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which included a 270.60km desert special stage into Abu Dhabi's Empty Quarter, on Monday.

Despres, riding a factory KTM 690 R, finished the selective section 41 seconds clear of his arch Spanish rival Marc Coma, as the event reached the Tal Mureeb bivouac. Norway's Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter headed Dubai-based Briton Dave McBride in third overall.

"A stage win is always nice, but I have noticed a difference with the desert since I was here in November, " said Despres. "The sand is a different colour and the dunes are 'more red'. It is amazing what can happen in a few months. It was a strategy to start at the back today. I managed to hit the gatch road first after the refuelling and passed Marc (Coma). Then it was a case of riding fast to the finish. Tomorrow will be another game, with him following me next time."

Predictably, the battle in the car category developed into a one-horse race with Chicherit and his new Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner holding a comfortable near 20-minute lead at the end of the leg in their BMW X3 CC.

"I am very happy to get the first desert stage out of the way with a good lead," said Chicherit. "It was not easy. It was my first stage with Tina (Thorner). She is very good, but I have had pace notes in French for many years and, a couple of times, I heard the wrong note in English and made a small mistake. But, we have four more days to get used to each other and for me to gain more experience in the car."

The UAE's Yayha Al-Helai was a distant second overall in his Nissan Patrol and Abdullah Al-Herais was third, although Al-Helai suffered a heavy landing over a ridge near the end of the stage and was worried that his Nissan Patrol had sustained damage.

Dubai-based Briton Dave McBride topped the strong field in the 450cc category. Sebastien Husseini struggled to match the leading bikes on the high-speed stage, but led the quad category on his KTM 525 XC.

Sixty-nine entrants were flagged away from the landmark Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi by event chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem, in the presence of representatives from the main sponsor, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Nasser Bin Obood of etisalat.

A 53.20km road liaison section guided competitors to the start of the day's opening 270.60km selective section at Al Dafra. The first day is arguably the easiest of the five desert legs and crossed high-speed sand flats and sabkha en route to the finish, north of Liwa, although reduced visibility and a strong desert wind hampered progress through the early kilometres.

The UAE's Mohammed Al-Shamsi led the entire field into the special stage on his Honda TRX quad, but Coma and Despres soon began their charge through the back-markers, after deciding to position themselves behind their rivals in Sunday's super special.

Przygonski was the first competitor to actually pass the first passage control at the 110km point, although Despres held a 14-second virtual stage lead over Coma heading into the final 160km of the day's stage and extended his advantage to 39 seconds through PC2.

Al-Shamsi was hospitalised with a suspected back injury, shortly before the first passage control, and Poland's Rafal Sonik sustained a broken wrist after falling off his quad.

Chicherit set the pace in the cars' category through the first PC. The Frenchman was 8m 17s faster than the UAE's Yayha Al-Helai at the 110km point and extended his advantage to 17m 26s at the end of the day's stage.

The 2009 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has the backing of key players, including the event's title sponsor, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), Nissan, ADNOC, Beach Rotana - Abu Dhabi, etisalat, Explorer, Hertz, Lambda Electronics, Oasis Water, TAG Heuer and the ADIMSC.

Leading positions on Leg 1 (unofficial @ 15.25hrs):

1. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC   2h 32m 49s
2. Yayha Al Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol  2h 50m 15s
3. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Haleem Bin Zayed (UAE) Nissan Patrol 3h 01m 26s
4. Ricardo Leal dos Santos (P)/Filipe Palmeiro (P) BMW X5  3h 03m 08s
5. Glenn Reid (UAE)/Paul Richards (UAE) Honda Buggy  3h 03m 38s
6. Laurent Rosso (F)/Paul Forthomme (B) Nissan Pathfinder  3h 05m 17s
7. Maurizio Traglia (I)/Fabian Lurquin (F) Nissan Pathfinder  3h 14m 50s

Bikes - overall
1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 690 R    2h 51m 47s
2. Marc Coma (E) KTM 690 R    2h 52m 28s
3. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM 690 R   2h 59m 03s
4. Dave McBride (GB) Honda CRF 450 X   3h 06m 48s
5. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM LC4    3h 11m 13s
6. Alex Zanotti (I) Aprilia RXV Africa   3h 13m 41s
7. Jakub Przygonski (PL) KTM 690 R   3h 15m 00s
8. Sean Gaugain (ZA) Honda CRF 450X   3h 16m 04s

1. Sebastien Husseini (NL) KTM 525 XC   3h 15m 37s
2. Franck Jaussaud (F) Yamaha Raptor 700  3h 26m 39s
3. Lionel Laine (F) KTM ATV 525 XC    3h 41m 50s

Spectator information
Tuesday, March 24th
·Start SS2 - 06.30.
·PC1 - 07.30: 36kms along the Ghiyathi road and access via 23 00.151 53 25.383.
·PC2 Service - 08.15: 26kms along the Ghiyathi road and access via 23 00.151 53 25.383
·Viewpoint- 09.30: 19kms along the Ghiyathi road and access via 23 00.151 53 25.383
·PC4 - 10.15: PC on main road crossing 9kms east of "Geyathi" roundabout.
·Viewpoint - 10.40: Access via 22 53.840 53 25.150 (4.2km).
·SS2 finish -11.20: Tal Moreeb bivouac.

Note to editors:
Progress of competitors through each of the event's five desert stages can be monitored from Monday morning with the following tracking system:


Updated results and unofficial PC positions and times can be found throughout each leg on the following results site:





Date issued: 23/03/2009

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