Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Peterhansel claims record victory with Audi

Audi Sport had already shown its potential at its 2022 Dakar Rally debut, where it achieved several stage wins. Now, and after that promising start at the toughest race in the world, the manufacturer has won its first trophy. 

Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger, aboard their fearsome hybrid RS Q e-tron, have taken the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and second round of the FIA World Rally Raid Championship, with a winning margin of almost half an hour. 

The French couple and the German firm have made history by calming the first-ever victory of a hybrid prototype. It seems that the missile of the four rings is called to dominate the rally-raid speciality with an iron fist.  

Thanks to their versatile and efficient German machine, the French teammates have executed a placid, error-free drive to victory. In fact, besides a puncture in the second stage that caused them to lose just over a minute, they have not suffered any technical setbacks. 

Completing the podium was Ford’s Martin Prokop in second at 29 minutes and 49 seconds behind the winner and Kuba Przygonski and his MINI, who finished third after losing 1h 28 minutes and 53 seconds. 


Al-Attiyah’s wheel breaks and Peterhansel cruises ahead 

Without diminishing their sporting merits, it must also be said that the winning couple has hardly encountered any opposition in the Middle Eastern race. The recent four-time Dakar champion, Nasser Al-Attiyah, suffered a broken wheel on the first leg of the Abu Dabhi Desert Challenge, leaving the way clear for Audi. 

Taking advantage of that circumstance, and with their chief rival, and one of the top challengers for victory, out of the title race, Peterhansel just had to administer his time wisely. 

A most experienced winner, The Frenchman masterfully managed his very comfortable advantage without no other concern than to keep an eye in the rear-view mirror for the rest of his opponents. In actual fact, he didn’t even have to extract all of the juice out of his state-of-the-art vehicle in four of the last five days of testing. 

At 56 years of age, Monsieur Dakar has won the Abu Dhabi round for a record-breaking eighth time. Neither the temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius nor the backbreaking route or the 1,800 kilometres of treacherous dunes have been able to stop this motor legend. 

Al-Attiyah wins four of the five stages  

As for Al-Attiyah, he lost all winning chances in the opening kilometres of the Abu Dabhi Desert Challenge after an overly optimistic jump in the first stage caused the suspension of his Toyota Hilux to break.

Wounded in his pride for losing the chance to battle for the final victory, he gritted his teeth and set off to demonstrate his mastery of the sand. And boy did he do it! 

Al-Attiyah won the remaining four stages. His pride of champions made up for the 16-hour penalty imposed on him for not finishing the first special. In the end, he finished fifth in the standings behind Sébastien Loeb. 

The nine-time WRC champion also suffered some technical problems in the opening stage losing two hours, but unlike the Qatari, he did not have the pace to fight for any stage victory.

In any case, the recent winner of the Montecarlo Rally Rally leaves the Persian Gulf at the head of the W2RC World Championship with one more point than Al-Attiyah, who has accrued 20 points for stage victories. 

Images of  Abu Dabhi Desert Challenge: Audi Sport.

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