Toby Price has claimed victory on stage three of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ahead of Pablo Quintanilla and Skyler Howes to move back to third in the overall standings while Adrien Van Beveren retains his overnight lead.
Set out in a loop around Liwa City, stage three of the ADDC challenged riders with a total distance of 303 kilometers. The 266-kilometer timed special was physically one of the toughest of the event so far, with rougher, more technical terrain making up much of the route.
After close to four hours of racing, Price completed the timed special just 16 seconds ahead of Quintanilla, securing his first stage win of the event. The Australian now lies third overall, just under three minutes down with two days left to race.
Feeling comfortable in the demanding conditions, Toby Price made the best of his eighth-place start position to push hard on the tracks and was able to reel in the riders ahead of him.
Slotting into a solid second place on time early on, Toby maintained that pace right to the end of the stage, where he was able to ultimately move into the lead in the final few kilometers. At the close of day three, and after close to 11 hours of racing against the clock, Price now trails the overall rally leader by a mere three minutes with two long stages left to cover.
“Yeah, stage three is done, and I was a little happier today,” Price enthused. “It was still tough out there with some unpredictable dunes but I was able to find a better rhythm and keep up a good pace. It would still be easy to make a mistake and risk injury so you have to stay completely focused all the time. A stage win today, which is great, it just doesn’t give me the best start position for tomorrow’s long stage four. All-in-all I’m happy and the bike is working really well. We’ll see what the final two days bring – I’m looking forward to it.”
Pablo Quintanilla was the first on the chronograph but his stage win was lost after a two minutes penalty.
“The second part of the marathon stage was good for me since I was able to keep a strong pace. I am happy with the outcome and to see how our team is performing here in this very demanding terrain in Abu Dhabi, so now let’s continue with all our determination in the last two stages.” Quintanilla said.
Despite the gruelling conditions, Skyler Howes delivered another consistent ride to complete the stage in third. The American, who set off third into the special, held his own while racing up near the front of the pack, and after collecting just over two minutes in bonuses, secured a top-three result for the second stage in a row, narrowly missing out on the stage win by just 19 seconds. The result moves Skyler from eighth to fifth in the provisional overall standings.
“That was a really tough stage today, I’m definitely feeling the fatigue to my whole body,” Howes said after the stage. “It was also overcast with a lot of cloud cover and that makes visibility in the dunes really bad, so it’s difficult to see any dune cuts, or much of anything for that matter. I caught up with the guys in front just before the refuelling, but it was definitely Luciano and Nacho (Cornejo) that took the reins opening the stage and did a really good job keeping the pace high. I’m actually quite happy with the day, but man it was physically demanding for sure. I’m looking forward to getting a bit of rest now ahead of the final two days.”
Rally leader Adrien Van Beveren followed teammate Ignacio Cornejo home in the fifth place and maintained his status in the top standings, leading the race in front of Pablo Quintanilla by just 43 seconds!
“It was difficult today, I did not have much visibility because of the weather,” Van Beveren explained. “At the beginning it all looked the same. It was not so easy but we did a good job. We gave our best on the second day of the marathon stage and I am happy about that. Also glad that my Honda CRF 450 Rally was always reliable during this tough stage. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a very physical and demanding race so now I have to rest and focus on the last two days. ”
Tomorrow’s Stage 4 will keep the circuit style around Qasr Al Sarab but in a longer way. Special stage will be 308 kilometers long – added by a liaison of 149 km. The landscape and terrain will remain the same, with most of the day to race on big dunes and sand tracks.
Provisional Results – Stage 3 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023
1 Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:43:29
2 Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:43:45 +0:16
3 Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 3:43:48 +0:19
4 Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 3:44:04 +0:35
5 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 3:44:32 +1:03
Provisional Standings – Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023 after 3 of 5 stages
1 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 10:55:02
2 Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 10:55:45 +0:43
3 Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 10:27:58 +2:56
4 Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 10:58:02 +3:00
5 Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 11:00:07 +5:05