• Moraes out as car catches fire 100 metres before the finish line. Quintero takes first win in only second race in Ultimate category, while Al-Attiyah makes stunning recovery to finish second overall despite losing clutch
  • Gutierréz takes second stage win, while Austin finishes third but retains overall lead in the Challenger category
  • Branch and Mare fight tooth and nail in Rally GP and Konrad Dabrowski wins again in Rally 2

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 29 February, 2024: Today’s Abu Dhabi Sports Council Stage 3 took a massive 415 kilometre-loop between Hameem and Jereirah, with 251 kilometres of special stages and 52% dunes. This meant that competitors were contending with multiple crests that are never easy to read given the sharp light and often-steep angles of approach. Despite the heat of the battles, the weather was pleasantly fresh following an overnight storm. However, that didn’t make anything easier, with unpredictable changes in the texture of the sand, impacting traction and steering without any warning and adding yet another epic struggle for all the contenders.

His Excellency Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary  of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, appreciated the wise leadership’s continued support of the sports sector and athletes, and praised the professional work of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge organising committee for its dedication to presenting an exceptional version of the important historical 33rd edition of the event.

Al Awani said: “We are proud to host an elite group of the brightest motorsport stars from all over the world in the Al Dhafra region and its various cities, its charming desert, and its golden sand dunes. We wish everyone safety and success, as the rally is considered one of the five rounds of the World Rally-Raid Championship.”

He concluded by saying: “Once again, Abu Dhabi proves its ability to host major international events, through the efforts of its youth, infrastructure, logistical support, and its ability to overcome all difficulties and face challenges, as the efforts of government and private institutions combine to support it, out of a keenness to come up with an exceptional edition. A new chapter of excellence and success awaits.”

It was a thrilling day in the Ultimate category as Seth Quintero finished in first place, while his stablemate Lucas Moraes is out following a fire that destroyed his car. Yazeed Al Rajhi finished second and Guerlain Chicherit third. Nasser Al-Attiyah has climbed up to 15′57″ behind the leaders overall, whereas Juan Cruz Yacopini is 26′39″ back. Quintero (Toyota Gazoo Racing) tops the virtual ranking, while Al-Attiyah is back in second place, 1′10″ behind the Toyota of Quintero.

Cristina Gutiérrez (BBR) restored claimed the Challenger stage win, her second triumph in the rally following the Prologue in Al Dhannah. The Spaniard was out of contention for the top spot after mechanical drama in Stage 1 but has bounced back and edged out the Can-Am Factory duo of Rokas Baciuška (+1′09″) and Austin Jones (+2′36″). The American retained his overall lead with a 7′08″ cushion over Baciuška, and Hernán Garcés (South Racing Can-Am) is third at 22′55″. In SSV, a fierce battle rages between Mansour Al Helei (RX-Sport) and Yasir Seaidan (MMP). Today, the Saudi driver clinched his second consecutive stage win by 3′28″ over the Emirati. Seaidan moved into the overall lead for the first time this week by just 18″ over Al Helei.

Today’s stage certainly wasn’t lacking in excitement for the bikes as Ross Branch (Hero MotoSports) claimed the win ahead of Duust Rally’s Konrad Dąbrowski and Jean-Loup Lepan. Aaron Mare came in fourth at 5’28″ and the South African maintained his lead in the classification by 5’05” over the Pole, with the Frenchman 20 minutes back from the Botswanan at 40’.

The fact that the competitors are driving at speed through exceptionally challenging terrain means that the support of the UAE government and its many institutions is absolutely crucial to the running of the race. The importance of the efforts, professionalism, and readiness of the emergency services cannot be overstated and is essential to providing a safe and controlled environment for each stage.

The Ministry of Defence & UAE Armed Forces provided the bivouac-building skills needed for two locations, and the coordination of the logistics teams ensured the smooth transfer of the equipment needed to house and sustain close to 1000 people for two days and nights at the first bivouac at Al Dhannah City, before moving the whole operation 350 kilometres south to Mezaira’a.

Alongside the race, part of EMSO’s community outreach initiative this year sees the organisation teaming up with Emirati craft foundation Alghadeer. Founded in 2006 under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, President’s Assistant for Women’s Affairs at the Red Crescent. Alghadeer Emirati Crafts is a non-profit organization that empowers the local community, using crafts to establish economic sustainability.

From tools and materials to training and marketing services, Alghadeer – meaning small stream that promotes growth in Arabic – provides the essential resources to re-establish the crafts inherited from the country’s ancestors, using them as a catalyst for social development.  Foundation members are present in the bivouac to provide an authentic Emirati experience where visitors can taste typical Emirati cuisine and visit the pop-up store showing many examples of their work, including a limited edition collection inspired by the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Khalid Bin Sulayem, the EMSO’s President, commented: “This year the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has been exemplary in so many ways. The racing has been thrilling and skilful across all the categories, the community outreach has been extensive and meaningful, and the support we receive from the Abu Dhabi Sports Council has resulted in yet another successful event. We are grateful for all their help and long-standing guidance. I would like to thank his excellency Al Awani and all at the Sports Council for their hard work and selfless dedication.”

Meanwhile in the W2RC, a new rider will be the winner in Abu Dhabi in two days’ time, adding a fourteenth name to the list of champions who have won the race since the introduction of motorbikes in 1995, with Aaron Mare and Konrad Dabrowski the best placed at the moment. For the FIM World Championship, it will also be a first, as neither Aaron Mare nor Ross Branch have yet won a W2RC round in RallyGP. Win or not, the Botswanan should leave Abu Dhabi with the lead of the World Championship. For Hero MotoSports, the seventh brand to enter the race’s prize list if Mare or Branch were to win, it would be a complete success: victory in the ADDC and leadership of the riders’ and manufacturers’ rankings. There are still two days to go, however, and anything can happen, as Moraes unfortunately found out today.

Tomorrow’s Stage 4 presented by Al Futtaim-Toyotastarts inMadinat Zayed and ends in Liwa City covering a total of 457 kilometres including 308 km of specials. The terrain is mixed, but as usual dunes make-up the majority of the route at 48% of the total distance. Other features include dried-up lake beds for 9% of the total distance, known locally as wadis, which can seem flat and predictable, but are difficult to read and as unpredictable as the changing texture of the sand. Wadis are also regarded in the UAE as sources of civilisation and hope due to the presence of water.

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. Seth Quintero (USA) 03.38.45

2. Yazeed AL Rajhi (SAU) +01.37

3. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA) +05.18


1. Cristina Guierrez (SPA) 03.47.50

2. Rokas Baciuška (LIT) +01.09

3. Hernán Garcés (CHI)+05.11


1.Yasir Saeidan (SAU)  03.33.19

2. Mansour Al Helei (UAE) +03.05

3. Sebastian Guyasamin +5.40


1. Abdulaziz Ahli 04.00.29

2. Kamil Wisniewski +05.50

3. Hani Alnoumesi  01.28.59

Rally GP

1. Ross Branch (BSW) 03.36.39

2. Aaron Mare (RA) +05.28


1. Konrad Dąbrowski (POL) 03.18.01

2. Jean-Loup Lepan (FRA) + 06.39

3. Jan Brabec +30.50


Ultimate (Overall)

1. Seth Quintero (USA) 10.44.01

2. Nasser Al -Attiyah (QAT) +01.10

3. Lucas Moraes (BRA) RETIRED

Challenger (Overall)

1. Austin Jones (USA) 11.03.24

2. Rokas Baciuška (LIT) +04.35

3. Hernán Garcés (CHI)+26.08

SSV (Overall)

1. Yasir Saeidan (SAU)  11.30.47

2. Mansour Al Helei (UAE) +00.18

3. Sebastian Guyasamin (USA) 17.53

Quad (Overall)

1. Abdulaziz Ahli 12.42.18

2. Hani Alnoumesi  06.36.08

3. Kamil Wisniewski +17.08.49

Rally GP ( Overall)

1. Aaron Mare (RA) 10.33.34

2. Ross Branch (BSW) +40.24

Rally 2 (Overall)

1. Konrad Dąbrowski (POL) 10.38.39

2. Jean-Loup Lepan (FRA) + 14.56

3. Jan Brabec (CZE) +01.16.55