Quintanilla takes the lead in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after two of five stages in the 2018 rally.


Reigning Cross-Country Rallies World Champion, Pablo Quintanilla has won the second stage of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to take the overall lead ahead of Sam Sunderland and Kevin Benavides.

The Chilean rider is a little over one minute ahead in the overall with three stages still to be raced in the dunes of UAE. Times are tight though and with Sunderland, Matthais Walkner and Kevin Benavides all in with a shout of victory.


Kevin Benavides Honda Rally Team Abu Dhabi Desert challenge 2018 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Team HRC


The fifth rider to take the start of Monday’s 287km long timed special, Quintanilla made the most of his good starting position to gain time back lost from leading day one.

“It wasn’t an easy stage today but I’m satisfied. There were many dunes and temperatures were quite high.” Said Quintanilla at the stage finish.

“Most of the timed special was in an off-piste section and that made navigation a lot more difficult. I had a good starting position in the morning and took full advantage of it to make up the time lost yesterday.”

Stage one winner, Toby Price had the task of opening the piste today but a crash caused an issue with the fuel line which the Australian spent 30mins fixing. The resulting time loss puts Price down to 11th overall.


Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Marcin Kin


Tactical game

Setting off third, Matthias Walkner the Austrian eventually caught team-mate Sunderland towards the end of the stage and the pair raced together to the finish. Walkner placed third overall again, with Sam Sunderland in fifth.

“My goal from the start was to catch the guys in front.” Said Walkner. “I caught them quite late in the stage, which shows their pace, but the main thing was to gain those valuable minutes. I’m fourth overall now which is encouraging for the rest of this rally.”


Matthias Walkner Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Marcin Kin


Sunderland retained his runner-up position in the provisional standings. Sam in now just over one-minute behind the leader and will start fifth on day three – a strong position from which to chase down the Quintanilla.

“Although the results don’t look that good on paper, this race is always strategic and whenever you start at the front, you lose time on riders behind you.

“Normally the guys behind catch you quite fast, but today I wasn’t caught until the 240km marker – that is really encouraging and shows my speed on the stage.”


Tomorrow’s stage includes a 281km long timed special in the big dunes of the United Arab Emirates.


2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 2 Provisional Classification

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 03:40:37
  2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 03:43:38
  3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 03:46:38
  4. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) 03:47:35
  5. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 03:49:36
  6. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 03:53:34

2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Provisional Overall Standings After Stage Two

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 07:04:19
  2. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 07:05:27
  3. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 07:06:14
  4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 07:06:58
  5. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) 07:17:44
  6. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 07:18:29



jon.pearson enduro21 april 2017

Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester