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The rally got underway with a mass start over hard, rocky and very dusty conditions and Price, Sunderland and Quintanilla, who also finished 1-2-3 in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge two weeks ago, quickly knotted into a compact group to ride out the stage together. Riders tackled a total distance of 410.04km, of which 226.42km was under the clock.
The characteristics of the Sealine Rally are very different to the opening round of the championship. Where in Abu Dhabi riders tackled the sweeping soft sand dunes, they are now into territory where a key element is mastering the stony terrain and paying absolute attention to the navigation.
Sam Sunderland, British by nationally but at home in Dubai, is no stranger to the Gulf States and the specific #racing conditions found here in the region. “I enjoy #racing in the dunes but I also kind of enjoy the navigation aspects that we have here. Today we had the mass start but we three riders quickly formed a group and rode together today. Today was an easier day because this is a small country and we rode north to south, but from tomorrow it will get tougher because we’ll be riding in big circular tracks."
Toby Price, KTM’s 2016 Dakar Rally winner from Australia is contesting his first world championship series said he had had quite a good opening stage. “It’s definitely much different to #racing in Abu Dhabi and the navigation is very difficult. This is hard and rocky, dusty and harsher on the bike wheels but we’re getting in the groove and it’s going to be good.”
The team’s third factory rider, Laia Sanz, finished in seventh place in the opening stage and was 11:48 minutes off the leading time. The Spanish rider, an experienced and very accomplished Dakar finisher who is always able to challenge her male opponents on her KTM 450 RALLY, will be looking for a strong finish in this second round of the championship.
Results Stage 1 Sealine Cross-Country Rally 2016 (Standings after 1 of 5 stages)
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 2:27:17 h
2. #samsunderland (GBR), KTM, +1 sec
3. #tobyprice (AUS), KTM, +3
4. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +1:35 min
5. Juan Carlos Salvatierra (BOL), KTM, +2:23
7. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +11:48
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