Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei sets fastest time on second Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge stage
Dubai's Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei and German co-driver Andreas Schulz guided their X-raid Mini All4 Racing to the fastest time on the punishing second stage of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge through the Rub Al-Khali on Tuesday.
Trailing Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser by 32m 22s at the overnight halt at Qasr Al-Sarab, Al-Mutaiwei reduced the twice former Dakar winner's overall advantage to an unofficial 24m 36s.
Frenchman Patrick Sireyjol set the third fastest time on the day's stage and the UAE's Yayha Al-Helai finished fourth to retain third overall in his Nissan Patrol. The UAE's Nabil Al-Shamsi was on course to move up to fifth position in the general classification at PC4.
"Everything is going according to plan," enthused Al-Mutaiwei. "This stage was better suited to my car and we managed to get some time back on the Buggy (Schlesser). There is still a long way to go, but we are in a good position and also need to be careful not to make a mistake."
Al-Mutaiwei began the second 283.35km stage, around 36km north of Mezaira'a, from a similar position on the road - two minutes behind overnight leader Schlesser. The Fazza Rally Team driver arrived at the first passage control one second behind the Frenchman, courtesy of the virtual fastest time to that point.
Numerous drivers, including the UAE's Mansoor Al-Helai, Britain's Mark Powell, Italy's Maurizio Traglio and Russian Boris Gadasin, began the second stage with 10 hours of time penalties for failing to complete the first of the legs on Monday.
Tuesday's route turned south towards the sand dunes near Liwa and Al-Mutaiwei managed to extend his virtual stage advantage over Schlesser to 2m 12s by PC2. After over more than an hour of further high speed action in the sweltering heat of the midday UAE sun, the pair remained split by 2m 12s at the third of four passage control points before the stage finish.
Al-Mutaiwei reached the final passage control in 4h 02m 21s and that was sufficient to extend his stage lead over Schlesser to 10m 01s heading into the final 20 or so minutes of the day's special. The Dubai driver knew that he would be running first on the road into the third leg on Wednesday, but his dream of winning the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was becoming a distinct possibility.
Two of the next three days involve loops around the Qasr Al-Sarab bivouac through the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), with the fifth and final day guiding teams back to the finish in Abu Dhabi at 16.30hrs on Friday, April 6th. Tomorrow's desert stage is split into two by a short neutralisation section.
Positions after leg two (unofficial @ 14.32hrs):
- Jean-Louis Schlesser (FRA)/Konstantin Zhilstov (RUS) Schlesser Buggy 8h 32m 31s
- Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei (UAE)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 8h 57m 07s
- Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol 9h 37m 43s
- Patrick Sireyjol (FRA)/Francois-Xavier Beguin (FRA) Nissan Patrol 9h 45m 41s, etc