For the opening round of the 2018 Cross Country Rallies World Championship held in Abu Dhabi, Pablo Quintanilla has been hailed as the victor. He overpowered Sunderland and Benavides in the said event. The road to victory for Quintanilla had been a tactical see-saw battle as his two close rivals also gave their all in order to cross the finish line first. At the end, Sam Sunderland and Kevin Benavides managed to finish five minutes clear of stage five in the UAE.
For the last stage of the rally, the riders went to an MX-style start. The fastest riders produced a group above the opening stretches of the 218 kilometer special. According to some reports, the track slowly became covered in dust therefore the riders had to lower their pace as to prevent the dangers of low visibility. Up ahead, the pack was lead by the Dakar champions. Mathias Walker along with Kevin Benavides who were one second apart from each other.
Sam Sunderland completed just 19 seconds and secured second in the overall. Toby Price was fourth with Quintanilla just 1:25 seconds behind. A close race indeed. Quintanilla retained his top spot in the overall ranking with a margin of five minutes and 11 seconds from the second place.
“I’m really happy to get the win in Abu Dhabi and it’s been a fantastic start to the new season.” told Quintanilla.
“This year’s Desert Challenge has been a really tough race from the beginning until the end. During these last few days we battled through extreme heat and the massive sand dunes of the area. There were many high-speed tracks and lots of off-piste sections where navigation was crucial. We also had some great fights with my main competitors and I’m happy I came out on top.”
2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 5 Classification
- Matthias Walkner (KTM) 02:46:40
- Kevin Benavides (Honda) 02:46:40.05
- Sam Sunderland (KTM) 02:46:59
- Toby Price (KTM) 02:47:26
- Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 02:48:05
2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Final Overall Standings
- Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 16:51:11
- Sam Sunderland (KTM) 16:56:22
- Kevin Benavides (Honda) 16:59:45
- Matthias Walkner (KTM) 17:00:47
- Paulo Goncalves (Honda) 17:09:46