ADDC 2021:  World champion Matthias Walkner wins the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

ADDC 2021: World champion Matthias Walkner wins the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

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The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge celebrated its 30th anniversary by closing out the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship season and delivered a race full of surprises.
From the super special stage (SSS), Matthias Walkner (KTM) sealed the fastest time and therefore started the opening desert selective section from 17th on the road - the finishing order of the SSS is reversed for the start of SS1 - and time counts for the overall classification with a coefficient of x4.

Despite this strategy, it was Ross Branch (Yamaha) who won SS1 to open up a four-second lead over the reigning World Champion, with Franco Caimi (Hero) in third on the stage. Every day, the thermometer displayed more than 36°C in the shade. Engines were put to the test by the heat,
Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) returned by road on the first day and Franco Caimi (Hero) broke his bike in SS2.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge always takes place in the Empty Quarter, a playground almost exclusively made up of sand dunes, sometimes very high and sometimes broken and the heat of the midday sun makes them treacherous.
Branch bore the brunt in SS2 - the first part of the marathon stage. He arrived in parc fermé with a broken navigation tower and a destroyed road book winder. Walkner duly gained an overall lead of 2min 38sec over Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha), who found the right feeling with his bike to set the fastest time.
Branch had hit his head during his fall and, at the exit of parc fermé at the start of SS3, the team prevented him from taking the start. He was duly entitled to a day of rest. The game was not yet over, however, and Daniel Sanders (GasGas) chased Walkner, won stage three and found himself within a minute of his rival.

Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) then won the fourth stage but Walkner finished second and gained minutes in the overall classification. Andrew Short (Yamaha) retired with a broken engine after 8km of the stage and there was a similar problem for Manuel Andujar, who was fighting with Rafal Sonik for the Quad World Cup title. Sebastian Bühler (Hero) fell heavily and broke his femur in the fourth stage.
The suspense was not over yet and a fifth stage that consisted of 34km of liaison and 216km of selective sections brought competitors back to Abu Dhabi.
Rally motorcycles have a fuel tank allowing them to run 250 km without refuelling, but the sand is soft and riders were a little nervous at the start. And for good reason… there was no refuelling point on this stage.

“On paper,”

said Walkner,

“Sanders had the best maps because we started this morning with a lot of dunes and off-piste. I rode and caught up with Adrien around km70 and did my best. We started to really attack at a very good pace and I was sure the results would be very close. But at km160, I told myself that we were at the limit of fuel management and gave up the attack to try to survive until the finish line.
_ “I am happy with my performance throughout the season thanks to the work of my mechanic Tom, and we are ready for the Dakar!"_

Daniel Sanders ran out of fuel shortly before the finish and had to push his motorcycle, while Adrien Van Beveren finished in a very good second place ahead of Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero), who climbed to the third step of the podium.
Unsurprisingly, Konrad Dabrowski (KTM Duust) won the Junior Class 2 title in RallyGP. Anastasiya Nifontova, who abandoned four wheels to return to her first love, won the female category, while Dave McBride was ranked best RallyGP Veteran.
In Rally2, the revelation was Dubai-based South African Michael Docherty, who won the category and would have been classified in third position in the general classification of all categories. American rookie Jacob Argubright (KTM Duust) was second, ahead of Makis Rees-Stravos and Danish rookie Thomas Kongshøj (KTM Duust).

In the Quad category, the rally victory fell to Abdulaziz Ahli, who finished ahead of Rafal Sonik and Manuel Andujar, the latter winning the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Cup.

Tal and David Galimidi won the rally in the FIM SSV category and finished third in the World Cup. Roy Bartov and Guy Biton came second.


Source: FIM Bajas & Cross-Country Rallies


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