Abu Dhabi, UAE, 28 February, 2024: After yesterday’s gruelling stage, which saw several competitors caught out by unexpectedly soft sand, today’s ADNOC Distribution Stage 2 from Madinat Zayed to Mezaira’a covered a total of 365 kilometres, including 248 kilometres of special stages.

The first part of Stage 2 saw dunes formed by tricky to read soft sand, complete with steep drop-offs. Then, after the first refuelling stop, the course crossed over into the rolling Liwa Valley ahead of a highly challenging final section with some big, technical dunes that also featured deceptive crests and unexpected ridges, a brutal combination that demanded supreme control and confidence.

Close to 1000 drivers, mechanics, officials, and hospitality workers arrived in Mezaira’a overnight, while the whole event was moved over 350 kilometres thanks to phenomenal efforts by the logistics team and the race organisers to create a second bivouac.

The new camp is once again open the public. For the locals, desert driving is a way of life and they start to drive in the desert as soon as they’re old enough. So, it’s probably no surprise that there were plenty of passionate exchanges in the bivouac between teams and the public about the dunes and favoured techniques for maximising traction in the sand.

In the ADNOC Distribution stage, Guerlain Chicherit (Overdrive Racing) won the stage, 2′44″ ahead of Nasser Al Attiyah (Nasser Racing by Prodrive). Seth Quintero and Lucas Moraes put their factory Toyota Gazoo Racing cars in third and fourth place, respectively, and Juan Cruz Yacopini and Yazeed Al Rajhi and their Hiluxes finished over 7 minutes down.

Al Attiyah maintains the overall lead of the ADDC, by 8′31″ over Moraes and 9′38″ ahead of Yacopini. Quintero is fourth at 11′41″, Al Rajhi fifth at 15′00″ while Chicherit made the most of his late starting position to surge up the field to sixth place. Guillaume de Mevius, starting the morning in second, lost the most from the day after having to quit the special.

Mansour Al Helei (RX-Sport) is leading SSV category after a second-place finish today. Together with Abdulaziz Ahli’s triumph in the quad race, this means the local men are leaders in a FIM and an FIA category, the first UAE national double topper of the week.

Early incidents in the bikes saw both Tobias Ebster and Michael Docherty out of the race. Ebster failed to show up at the start following his crash yesterday, while Docherty crashed after 5 kilometres of the special stage and was helped by Aaron Mare (Hero MotoSports) and Konrad Dąbrowski (Duust Rally), who showed a fine example of the camaraderie that characterises the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge by stopping to assist.

Both riders then got going again after spending around 30 minutes with Docherty and will benefit from 30 and 25 minutes of compensation, respectively, for assisting the South African rider.

Ahead of them, Jean-Loup Lepan remained glued to the wheel of provisional stage winner Ross Branch and came home 3 minutes behind the Zimbabwean. For the final result, Mare was declared the winner and Dąbrowski second.

Two of the four Vendetta Racing UAE riders still in contention are in the top 10 overall following stage 2. Britain’s Thomas Childs rose to eighth place, 54 seconds ahead of his countryman William McBride in ninth. Their Irish teammate Oran O’Kelly produced a solid performance to finish fifth on the day. Local Quad hero Abdulaziz Ahli won his second stage, this time by a margin of 9′50″ over Kamil Wiśniewski.

Emirates Motor Sports Organisation (EMSO) President, H.E. Khalid Ben Sulayem, commented: “Our partnership with ADNOC Distribution has lasted 27 years and is the bedrock of this event. On top of that, their dedication to the science of petroleum and sustainability is ongoing and their role in the performances of the competitors is so important. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to this amazing and exemplary organisation for everything it does for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, and we look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration.”

Tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Sports Council Stage 3 is a daunting 414 kilometre loop around Liwa City, with 251 kilometres of special stages, and is 52% dunes. This means that the competitors will be contending with challenging crests, as well as the fierce heat and changes in the sand.

The maximum number of points during the ADDC in the overall W2RC standings is 55: 30 points for the overall win and 25 points for the 5 stage wins (5 points each). If Al Attiyah achieves this faultless performance this week, he will be back on the podium in the overall standings. Al Attiyah is currently 35 points behind De Mevius and 34 points behind Chicherit.

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.