Red Bull KTM Factory Racing‰Ûªs Sam Sunderland has won a hot and gruelling stage three of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Matthias Walkner, having been caught by Sunderland, crossed the finish line second, three-minutes down on his team-mate. Honda trio Kevin Benavides, Ricky Brabec and Paulo Goncalves finished third, fourth and fifth respectivly. Stage two winner and leader going into stage three Pablo Quintanilla dropped to fourth in the event‰Ûªs provisional overall standings after a small technical issue forced him to ease his pace, eventually finishing the stage in 8th.
Aussie Toby Price had a tough day following his crash on stage two, ultimately placing 11th.
Stage three of the 2018 Desert Challenge saw riders cover numerous large sand dunes in the Liwa Desert, just south of Abu Dhabi. Comprised of deep, soft sand and steep drop-offs, the first half of the stage rewarded careful navigation and the ability to read the terrain. The 281.38km timed special proved to be one of the toughest of the rally so far in the heat of the United Arab Emirates sun.
Setting off fifth this morning, Sam Sunderland immediately pushed to catch the four riders in front of him. The Brit‰Ûªs pace placed him first at every waypoint through the timed special and it wasn‰Ûªt long until he caught the front-runners. After catching team-mate Matthias Walkner just after the refuelling stop, the pair raced on together ultimately claiming the top-two positions come the finish. Sunderland now leads the provisional overall standings by over seven minutes.
"That was another long, hot day in the sand for the bike and my body," Sunderland said. "I am feeling good though and I‰Ûªm really happy to win the stage and put some time between myself and the others. My start position helped a lot today, I was able to push right from the start and chase down the guys in front. Obviously, it means I will be opening the stage tomorrow, but we still have two days of riding left. I‰Ûªll continue to push on and we‰Ûªll see what happens at the end of the rally.‰Û