ADDC 2024: Al Attiyah and Branch call the shots

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The 5-kilometre ADNOC Oasis prologue took place today on the doorstep of Al Dhannah, where the caravan of the 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge set up camp this evening.
The ten fastest motorbike riders and drivers got to pick their starting order for stage 1, which the organiser has touted as the toughest one of the week, making the prologue a duel of vast strategic importance.
Ross Branch (Hero MotoSports) beat the SRG Motorsports duo of Michael Docherty and Tobias Ebster to take the win in the motorbike race, while Kamil Wiśniewski outgunned Abdulaziz Ahli and Hani Alnoumesi in the quad prologue.
Nasser Al Attiyah prevailed over Guillaume de Mevius (Overdrive Racing) and Martin Prokop (Orlen Jipocar) in the car race. Nicolás Cavigliasso (Taurus Factory Wevers) and João Ferreira (Can-Am Factory) were the highest-ranked championship entrants in the Challenger and SSV classes, respectively.

FIM: BRANCH SHOWS WHO'S BOSS

Ross Branch won the prologue with 2 seconds to spare over Michael Docherty and 7 over Tobias Ebster. The ADDC holds a special place in the hearts of all three men. In 2022, the Botswanan claimed his maiden W2RC stage win here. In 2021, the South African finished second overall in his first rally raid ever, clinching the Rally 2 title and taking the fight to the Rally GP pros. The Emirates is also where it all began for Tobias Ebster, just one year ago. Kinigadner's nephew won the Rally 2 class and the Road to Dakar Challenge in his first start in a W2RC round. After wrapping up the 2024 Dakar in the top 20 overall, as the top rookie and with the malles moto title in the bag, he is now gunning for a spot on a works team. Aaron Mare, who filled in for Sebastian Bühler at Hero at the last minute, posted the fourth-fastest time at 8 seconds from his teammate.
Kamil Wiśniewski broke Abdulaziz Ahli's vice grip on the quad race. The three-time champion and current title holder, who scored a clean sweep of stage wins last year, came up 3 seconds short. Hani Alnoumesi came in third, 51 seconds from the Pole.
When the time came to pick their starting positions for stage 1, every single rider shied away from the arduous task of leading the charge in the dunes, save for the Rally 2 rider Oran O'Kelly (Vendetta Racing UAE), who boldly took it upon himself to open the road. The rest will be starting in their reverse order from the prologue, with Branch slotted in tenth place, right behind Docherty and Ebster.

FIA: AL ATTIYAH UNTOUCHABLE

Nasser Al Attiyah and Édouard Boulanger hit the ground running in their first race together. The Prodrive Hunter romped home with 4 seconds to spare over Guillaume de Mevius. Martin Prokop, the victor of the 2018 ADDC and runner-up in the last two editions, clocked the third-best time at 6 seconds from the back-to-back reigning world champion. Lucas Moraes (Toyota Gazoo Racing) and Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) were tied on time with the Czech, a second ahead of Guerlain Chicherit (Overdrive Racing) in sixth place.
Nicolás Cavigliasso and Rokas Baciuška (Can-Am Factory) were the fastest championship entrants in the Challenger class, with the Argentinian eking out the win by a second over the Lithuanian.
João Ferreira was 2 seconds faster than Enrico Gaspari (Xtreme +) and Ricardo Ramilo Suárez in the SSV race. Yasir Seaidan (MMP) was 5 seconds off the Portuguese's pace.
When the time came to pick their starting order for tomorrow, all drivers made the logical choice to start as far back as possible in order to benefit from the traces left by the competitors ahead of them. In other words, the starting order for the top 10 tomorrow will be a mirror image of today's ranking. Nasser Al Attiyah will be surging from behind, while Seth Quintero (Toyota Gazoo Racing) will be in the unenviable position of opening the inaugural special.

Next up

  • 27 February: Stage 1: Ruler's Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region (total: 374 km / special: 248 km)
  • 28 February: Stage 2: ADNOC Distribution (total: 327 km / special: 239 km)
  • 29 February: Stage 3: Abu Dhabi Sports Council (total: 414 km / special: 251 km)
  • 1 March: Stage 4: Al Futtaim-Toyota (total: 345 km / special: 231 km)
  • 2 March: Stage 5: Abu Dhabi Aviation (total: 423 km / special: 205 km)

 

Source: W2RC / A.S.O.
Photo: A.S.O/DPPI/B.Roux