The smiles and easy talk before the start of the 222.80km Al Ain Water stage said little about what was really on competitors minds, the weather. A short distance into the race the breeze increased, the visibility dropped and the tracks from earlier vehicles disappeared. Today, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge got even tougher.
In the bikes, overnight leader Sam Sunderland (GBR) set off into an unmarked desert. He was chased hard by Andrew Short (USA) throughout the stage, but it was Jose Cornejo (CHL) who made up the threesome before going on take the stage win, closing the overall gap on Sunderland down to 51 seconds.
In the cars, Cyril Despres (FRA) was looking to defend the slim margin he had built up from the previous day, but second placed Bernard Ten Brinke (NED) was equally determined to reel him in as he scorched off the start line. But both came to grief on this second stage as both got stuck in soft sand.
As the weather closed in further, the desert got even trickier to read and the fleet concertinaed contributing to a collision between Jakub Przygonski’s (POL) Mini and Martin Prokop’s (CZE) Ford Raptor that was stuck in a dune. The incident saw Przygonski’s co-driver’s door ripped off.
But in a reverse of the helping hand of the previous day, when Prokop had towed Przygonski across the finish line, this time Przygonski was to tow Prokop out of the soft sand – not once but twice. Their private score had been leveled but the battle carried on.
Meanwhile, success of the day went to Stéphane (FRA) and Andrea Peterhansel (GER) who delivering a text book performance to finish second on the stage, a result that launched them into the overall lead by 2min 26sec.
Leading positions after Al Ain Water Stage 2 (provisional):
1. Stephane Peterhansel / Andrea Peterhansel (FRA / DEU) / MINI JCWorks Rally 7:16:46.0
2. Bernhard Ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul (NDL / BEL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7:19.12.0
3. Khalid Al Qassimi / Xavier Panseri (ARE / FRA) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 7:19:44.0
4. Jakub Przygonski / Timo Gottschalk (POL / DEU) / MINI John Cooper Works Buggy 7:25:33.0
5. Martin Prokop / Viktor Chytka (CZE / CZE) / Ford Raptor RS Cross Country 7:27:05.0
6. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / BMW X3 7:32:58.0
7. Aron Domzala / Maciej Marton (POL / POL) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7:37:53.0
8. Casey Currie / Laurent Lichtleuchter (USA / FRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 7:57:30.0
9. Reinaldo Varela / Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA / BRA) / CAN AM Maverick X3 7:57:39.0
10. Khalid Al Jafla / Andrei Rudnitski (ARE / BLR) / Chevrolet Silverado 13:16:05.0
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 6:59:57.0
2. Jose Cornejo (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 7:00:48.0
3. Andrew Short (USA) / HUSQVARNA FR 450 / 1 7:04:09.0
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG) / KTM 450 Rally Factory / 1 7:06:39.0
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 Rally / 1 7:20:17.0
6. Mark Ackerman (ZAF) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 7:48:49.0
7. Ryan Blair (GBR) / HUSQVARNA F 450 RR / 1 7:49:00.0
8. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 7:59:02.0
9. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT) / KTM 450 Rally Replica / 1 8:08:34.0
10. David McBride (GBR) / KTM 450 Rally / 1 8:39:16.0
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan, remaining rally itinerary:
2 April: Nissan Stage 3 (297.97km) - starting 6.15am
3 April: ADNOC Stage 4 (286.10km) - starting 6.00am
4 April: Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5 (214.47km) - starting 6.25am
Source: ADDC press release