ADDC 2024: Quintero heaven-sent, Mare hell-bent

ADDC 2024: Quintero heaven-sent, Mare hell-bent

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A bona fide Hollywood action movie scenario unfolded today in the Ultimate special of the 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It was a rip-roaring stage 3, a wild ride oscillating between water and fire!
Ross Branch (Hero MotoSports) won the FIM motorbike special but was unable to break away from the men ahead of him in the overall. His teammate Aaron Mare remains perched at the summit of the ranking, while Abdulaziz Ahli also retained the top spot in the quad competition.
In the car category, Nasser Al Attiyah (Nasser Racing by Prodrive) surrendered the lead but remains within striking distance. Lucas Moraes (Toyota Gazoo Racing) crossed the finish line with his Hilux ablaze, knocking the Brazilian out of the rally after it turned into an ash heap. His brother in arms Seth Quintero clinched his maiden Ultimate win and vaulted to the front of the pack.
Jones and Baciuška held on to the overall lead in the Challenger class with their Can-Am Factory machines. Yasir Seaidan (MMP) emerged victorious from the SSV special and snatched the lead.

FIM: BRANCH FLIES IN FORMATION

Ross Branch, who was third yesterday, set off from that same spot this morning and reeled in Konrad Dąbrowski (Duust Rally) and Aaron Mare, who were all too keen to stick with the captain. Branch, a navigation ace, took care of the flight plan until the landing, which allowed his wingman and his Polish opponent to focus on their riding and match his pace in the dunes. The Botswanan triumphed for the second time, following his success in the prologue. Captain Branch was unable to reach the Mach number required to fly away from his passengers. The Kalahari Ferrari is more than forty minutes behind his teammate Aaron Mare in the overall with two days to go. The Hero factory rider was realistic about his prospects in the bivouac: "We're going to try and pick up some championship points. My teammate is also leading the race, we're going to make sure we secure the best possible result for the team". In other words, Branch has to help Mare defend the South African's slim lead of 4′46″ over Dąbrowski. A win for Mare would be the Indian maker's first W2RC triumph, while Branch's fourth place overall —second among Rally GP entrants— would allow the Dakar runner-up to take the lead in the world championship. Jean-Loup Lepan (Duust Rally) ranks third at 20′19″.

Abdulaziz Ahli now has an even clearer path to victory in the quad race. Kamil Wiśniewski (Orlen) dropped out of the special after breaking his rear loop. The Emirati took his third back-to-back stage win and padded his overall lead over the Pole and Hani Alnoumesi.

FIA: FIRE AND BRIMSTONE

Coming after a storm that soaked the bivouac overnight, stage 3 followed with a thunderclap 59 km into the special. Stranded in a hollow, Nasser Al Attiyah and Édouard Boulanger had to dig out their Hunter without the help of their hydraulic jacks, which were no good in this situation. It took the overall leaders 20 minutes of working with spades and plates to get out of that quandary. The world champion's rivals were soon informed of the opportunity before them. Juan Cruz Yacopini (Overdrive Racing) was the first to pounce. The Argentinian, third overall at the start, had moved into the virtual lead by the following time check. However, at km 180, the driver from Mendoza rear-ended Martin Prokop (Orlen Jipocar) at the foot of a dune. In fact, the Czech driver was already trying to get back on the move after Denis Krotov (Overdrive Racing) slammed into him. The chain reaction cost Yacopini twenty minutes, along with his hopes of winning the stage and the title. It was a godsend for the Toyota Gazoo Racing's two fresh recruits, Lucas Moraes and Seth Quintero, who took over the lead on the day and in the virtual overall. At the finish, the American posted the fastest time, the first victory of his career in Ultimate for his second rally-raid outing in the category. The Brazilian Hilux crossed the finish line literally on fire. Thankfully, the crew managed to escape in the nick of time. Although they were later credited with the fourth time of the day, 1′37″ behind Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) and 5′18″ behind their teammate Guerlain Chicherit, their hopes of continuing the race went up in smoke along with their vehicle. Next up came Nasser "Al Attack", who culminated an incredible comeback with fifth place in the stage, 12′51″ back. Seth Quintero moved into the ADDC lead by 1′10″ over Nasser Al Attiyah, who saw his own troubles offset by Moraes and Yacopini's reversals of fortune. Yazeed Al Rajhi is third at 4′56″, followed by Guerlain Chicherit at 10′50″. It was an insane stage that shook up the title prospects of Quintero, Al Attiyah, Al Rajhi and Chicherit.

Rokas Baciuška and Austin Jones (Can-Am Factory) clung on to the Challenger lead with 7′08″ in hand. While this is by no means exceptional in the ADDC, it is worth noting that the two stablemates are fifth and sixth overall in the FIA standings. Yasir Seaidan (MMP) emerged victorious from the SSV special. The Saudi is in the driver's seat of the W2RC ranking by 15′06″ over Sebastián Guayasamín (FN Speed) and an hour over Rebecca Busi (OnlyFans Racing).

 

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

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