The first special stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge proved to be a difficult one for the Monster Energy X-raid Team. While the Spanish/French pairing Nani Roma / Michel Périn took its MINI ALL4 Racing to second position, Stephan Schott (GER) and Filipe Palmeiro (POR) had to settle for finishing 16th, with their MINI ALL4 Racing. The cross-country rallying newcomers from Paraguay, Viktor and Vernon Rempel, finished their first day in the desert as 26th. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL) and Andreas Schulz (GER) were hampered by a technical problem and therefore had to settle for finishing 30th.
The weather turned the start of stage one into a true patience test. A heavy sandstorm prevented the helicopter from taking off and for safety reasons, the competitors are not allowed to start the stage without the helicopter in the air. So, the event organisers responded at first by shortening the stage and postponing the start. Then, the stage was cancelled completely for the motorbikes and everybody expected the same decision to be made regarding the cars. At 13:00hrs local time, the helicopter took off and the cars were sent out.
For Roma, the special stage got even more difficult, from kilometre 12. Bernard Ten-Brinke who had been the first to start into the stage got stuck in the sand. From this moment, Roma had to act as pathfinder. “Doing so wasn’t easy,” he explained later. “The wind was extreme and finding the correct path in the dunes proved to be difficult more often than not.”
Meanwhile, Schott was happy with his day although he got stuck three times. “We made good time,” said the German, “But the heavy wind raised a lot of dust and so, accessing how fast you could drive was not too easy.” Father and son Rempel arrived at the bivouac with a grin on their face. For them, it had been their first opportunity to drive across dunes at racing speed. “Unfortunately we lost a lot of time as we got stuck twice,” revealed Viktor Rempel. “Otherwise we could have secured a far better position. And in addition, we stopped to help Krzysztof.”
At the beginning of the stage, Holowczyc held the lead but then, a drive-shaft damage cost him a lot of time. “From this point in time, we had a three-wheel drive car,” Holowczyc explained later. “I lost so much time today that thinking about winning the rally isn’t exactly what you would call realistic. Nonetheless, we will keep on pushing, in the following stages.”
Tomorrow, in the second stage, the competitors once again will have to cope with a lot of dunes. Following a 134.21-kilometre liaison section, they will start into the 250.43-kilometre special stage. From the finish line, they will have to cover just another 14 kilometres to the bivouac.
Stage 1 – Results (tbc):
1. L. Alvarez (ARG)/B. Graue (ARG) Toyota- 1h 52m 03s
2. N. Roma (ESP)/M. Pern (FRA) MINI ALL4 Racing – 1h 55m 22s
3. E. Van-Loon (NDL)/W. Rosegaar (NDL) Ford – 1h 59m 00s
16. S. Schott (GER)/F. Palmeiro (POR) MINI ALL4 Racing – 12h 53m 36s
26. V. Rempel (PAR)/V. Rempel (PAR) BMW X3 CC – 3h 14m 04s
30. K. Holowczyc (POL)/A. Schulz (GER) MINI ALL4 Racing – 3h 46m 37s
Overall after Stage 1 (tbc).:
1. L. Alvarez (ARG)/B. Graue (ARG) Toyota- 1h 53m 46s
2. N. Roma (ESP)/M. Pern (FRA) MINI ALL4 Racing – 1h 57m 03s
3. E. Van-Loon (NDL)/W. Rosegaar (NDL) Ford – 2h 00m 42s
21. S. Schott (GER)/F. Palmeiro (POR) MINI ALL4 Racing – 2h 55m 24s
26. V. Rempel (PAR)/V. Rempel (PAR) BMW X3 CC – 3h 15m 48s
30. K. Holowczyc (POL)/A. Schulz (GER) MINI ALL4 Racing – 3h 48m 15s