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Toby Price also took the victory in Saturday’s prologue, an 8km high-speed dash of just under two minutes that decided the starting order for the first stage. On Sunday he finished in 3:37:47 hours but factory teammate Sam Sunderland was only 35 seconds behind. Third place in the stage, and in the standings, went to Pablo Quintanilla, only one minute behind the leader.
The stage heralded a return to elite competition for Sunderland, who finished second here last year and was also second overall behind factory teammate Matthias Walkner in the 2015 World Championship. The British rider was denied a chance to compete in the 2016 Dakar when he broke his femur in the Merzouga Rally while preparing for the season’s most important #event. Walkner is meanwhile also working on his rehabilitation after an injury that cut short his own Dakar bid in 2016.
Price: "Yesterday we took the win in the prologue and today Sam and Pablo (Quintanilla) and I pretty much raced neck and neck and we all took a turn at the front. It was a good day but this is my first time here in #abudhabi and it’s a new learning curve for me. It gets difficult around midday when the sun is high and that makes everything very difficult to see but it was a good day and I like #racing in the desert. There are another four stages and I know I have to ride smooth and not do anything silly.”
Sunderland, who is based in Dubai, said while he enjoyed a ‘home race’ in his own region, #racing in the desert did not really give him an advantage. “It’s all off piste and open desert,” he said. “It's the same for us all. Today Toby, Pablo and me were all pushing a lot. The bike’s working well and my leg is okay for my first race back after injury.”
Laia Sanz, the third member of the KTM factory squad was ninth and trailed Price’s winning time by 25:43 minutes. All three factory riders are competing on the KTM 450 RALLY bike.
The Desert Challenge is the first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship 2016. The second stage on Monday will be over 510.65km, with 278.9km of timed special. The rally concludes on Thursday.
Next Race: April 17-22, 2016 – Sealine Cross-Country Rally (QAT)
Results Stage 1 #abudhabi Desert Challenge 2016
1. #tobyprice (AUS), KTM, 3:37:47 h
2. #samsunderland (GBR), KTM, +32 sec
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, +1:06 min
4. Helder Rodrigues (POR), Yamaha, +14:02
5. Jakub Piatek (POL), KTM, +15:05
9. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +25:43
Standings #abudhabi Desert Challenge 2016 after 1 of 5 stages
1. Price, 3:39:39 h
2. Sunderland, +35 sec
3. Quintanilla, +1:09 min
4. Rodrigues, +14:08
5. Piatek, +15:16
9. Sanz, +25:53
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