Al-Attiyah Takes Overall Lead in Ultimate, Mare Extends Advantage and Gutiérrez Nears Potential Podium

  • Yacopini and Wisniewski retire before the start, with Chicherit out after his co-driver was injured
  • Sanz and Gutiérrez are back in the game despite early technical problems, but Jones and Baciuška fight back
  • New race leader Al-Attiyah only one of two non-Toyotas in the Top 5

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 1 March, 2024: Two big names are now out of the running in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, as Juan Cruz Yacopini retires and possible podium finisher Guerlain Chicherit had to stop due to a medical issue with co-driver Alex Winocq.

Chicherit had been fighting with Yazeed Al Rajhi for a place in the top 3, while up ahead Nasser Al Attiyah won the special by an incredible 8′21″ over Al Rajhi and 10′31″ ahead of Martin Prokop. Prokop started in tenth position this morning after getting stuck in the dunes with Denis Krotov yesterday, but he has been blasting up the field today in his trusty “Shrek”. The Czech finished on the stage podium, 9′53″ behind Nasser Al Attiyah. The Orlen Jipocar driver, the runner-up in last year’s ADDC, is ninth overall at more than five hours back.

The stage podium is, in fact, a who’s who of recent winners of the rally: Al Attiyah (2008, 2016 and 2021), Al Rajhi (2023) and Prokop (2018). Chicherit had to stop for a medical issue with his co-driver Winocq and finished 25’48” down without his co-driver having been in second-place and is now out of the running.

Ahead of the final stage tomorrow, Al-Attiyah has made a massive stride towards the top step for his fourth Desert Challenge victory, his first of the season after retiring in Dakar. Title holder Al Rajhi, another non-finisher in Dakar, will be looking for redemption with a podium.

In Seth Quinteros’s second race in the Ultimate category, he has proved himself to be highly promising and someone who clearly loves the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge where he came third overall in last year’s edition, and this year he could well end up on the second step of the podium behind a double world champion.

In the Challengers, Austin Jones took back the lead of the special at km 81, 8″ ahead of Cristina Gutiérrez (BBR) and 20″ ahead of his teammate Can-Am Factory Rokas Baciuška. Nicolás Cavigliasso (Taurus Factory Wevers) is at 3′05″. Laia Sanz, who yesterday suffered a broken shock absorber that damaged her rear differential, recovered well in today’s action.

Local talent Mansour Al Helei (RX-Sport) and Yasir Seaidan (MMP), who started the stage with a slim 18-second margin in favour of the Saudi, treated fans to another cracking special today. Seaidan found himself on the losing side but managed to limit the damage to a minute and a half. Al Helei is back in control of the overall by just 1′12″. As a result, the finale will decide the duel between all-time great Yahya Al Helei’s son and the third-placed rider in the last Dakar.

HeroMotosport rider Aaron Mare, standing in for Sebastian Buhler, beat Jean-Loup Lepan into second, with the other Duust Rally rider, Konrad Dąbrowski in third at 5′09″, and Ross Branch fourth at 7′31″. Both Dąbrowski and Lepan followed Ross Branch, unaware he had lost his way, which explains Mare’s lead in the overall standings ballooning to 10′14’.

Mare commented after the race: “I just didn’t take any chances and did everything to keep the bike good for tomorrow and I’m looking forward to the rest of the race. Just one more day, and hopefully we can keep the overall lead.” A victory for Mare would be a historic moment for HeroMoto, the first ever Indian team, and if Branch finishes, he’ll be leading the Rally GP classification. Local hero Abdulaziz Ahli has won again on his quad and the Emirati will most likely win the category.

Abdulaziz Ahli said: “Today was also another long stage. It started very easy, mostly straight until maybe 20-30 kilometres before the fuel we started doing the dunes. I started with a slow pace, I just wanted to make it through. Once I reached the fuel, I thought ‘if I’m too slow I’m afraid the car will catch me up and then the track will be little bit hard’. So, after the fuel stop I start pushing. By the last 50 kilometres the tracks were disappearing, and we started entering soft sand. I had one dune that was really hard to get up, I needed five tries and on the fifth try I finally made it. We’re back here now with only one more day to go!”

Jacques Brent, Managing Director Toyota and Lexus at Al-Futtaim Automotive, commented: “The 33rd edition of the Desert Challenge has proved to be an extraordinary and demanding race for the all the participants, with some amazing skills on display. Of course, the race is not yet over, but it has been truly inspiring for everyone at Toyota and Lexus to see the Toyota entries doing so well and dominating the Ultimate category. I’d also like to express my gratitude to the many officials for the amazing work they do to make the event possible. As Official Automative Partner, we are extremely proud to be associated with one of the most exciting and challenging races in the world, and the fact that the race stewards and other officials use our vehicles while doing their jobs also makes us proud and shows the world how robust and well-built they are.”

Khalid Bin Sulayem, the EMSO’s President, commented: “As we approach the final stage, it’s very satisfying to see that the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has grown into an event that attracts both experienced drivers and riders, and an exciting new wave of talent. Ensuring the future of this amazing sport by supporting and encouraging upcoming talent is one of our primary aims, and it’s something we’re very proud to be able to do, especially as we are now starting to see growth in Emirati off-road talent, which resonates powerfully within the UAE and grows the relevance of the Desert Challenge with the local population – something that we all want to see.”

The final stage of this year’s event, the Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5, runs from Mezaira’a to Abu Dhabi and starts at Hameem. The stage is relatively fast with a few challenging dunes and covers a total of 370 kilometres, with 206 kilometres of specials. The dunes make it a true Desert Challenge stage, but the difficulty has been set to a level that will ensure everyone can return to Abu Dhabi for the finish ramp.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region; presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; with the support of this year’s Energy partner ADNOC Distribution; Automotive partner Al-Futtaim Toyota; Abu Dhabi Aviation; Al Ain Water; Governmental support from the Ministry of Defence & UAE Armed Forces , Abu Dhabi Police,  Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co, Al Dhafra Region Municipality, and our media partner Abu Dhabi Sports TV.



1. Nasser Al -Attiyah (QAT) 03:12:21

2. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU) + 08:21

3. Martin Prokop (CZE). +09:53


1.Austin Jones (USA) 03:27:19

2. Rokas Baciuška (LIT) +02:02

3. Cristina Gutierrez (SPA) + 03:59


1. Mansour Al Helei (UAE) Time: 03:32:07

2. Yasir Seaidan (Saudi Arabia)  Gap: + 01:40

 3.Sebastian Guayasamin (USA) Gap: + 11:24


1. Abdulaziz Ahli (UAE) Time: 04:26:41

2. Hani Alnoumesi (Saudi Arabia)  Gap: + 01:23:46

Rally GP

1. Aaron Mare (RA) 03:21:41

2. Ross Branch (BSW) + 07:31


1. Jean-Loup Lepan (FRA) 03:23:45

2. Konrad Dąbrowski (POL) + 03:05

3. Jan Brabec (CZE) + 15:37


Ultimate (Overall)

1. Nasser Al -Attiyah (QAT) 13.57.32

2. Seth Quintero (USA) +09.21

3. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU) +12.07

Challenger (Overall)

1. Austin Jones (USA) 14:30:43

2. Rokas Baciuška (LIT)  +06:37

3. Hernán Garcés (CHI) + 40:10

SSV (Overall)

1. Mansour Al Helei (UAE) 15:03:12

2. Yasir Saeidan (SAU)  + 01:22

3. Sebastian Guyasamin (USA) + 28:59

Quad (Overall)

1. Abdulaziz Ahli 17:08:59

2. Hani Alnoumesi + 07:59:54

Rally GP ( Overall)

1. Aaron Mare (RA) 13:55:15

2. Ross Branch (BSW) + 47:55

Rally 2 (Overall)

1. Konrad Dąbrowski (POL) 14:05:29

2. Jean Luc Lepan (FRA) +11:51

3. Jan Brabec (CKE) + 01:29:27