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Media bulletin No.26 / 13.00 hrs / Friday 27th March, 2009

BREAKING NEWS... News from leg 5 - Oasis stage finish

Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thörner of the BMW X-raid team clinch victory in the car category of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge


Guerlain Chicherit (201) - “Last week I was taking part in a World Cup competition in extreme skiing and this week I am winning a World Cup rally in the Middle East ? all in the space of 10 days. From one extreme to the other!

“There was a sand storm today for around 50% of the stage and the wind meant that visibility was down to just metres in places. We stopped early in the stage to let some pressure out of the tyres and then ran with the Buggy (Glenn Reid) for about an hour. Then, I heard a noise on the car and stopped at the final PC just to check everything was okay. This is a great feeling to win this rally. Tina (Thörner) did a great job and the mechanics worked so hard to make sure the car was always ready for the stage every morning. This result is for my team.”

Yayha Al Helai (202) - “Today we took it easy with no risks. I did not want to push. We could not catch the BMW so we wanted to make sure we finished second.”

Ahmed Bin Soughat (212) - “There were some really big dunes and the sand was very soft for about 30km. The road book was okay, but I needed to be careful not to make a mistake.”


Sébastien Husseini (54) - “At the start of the week I had the goal of reaching the top 10. It was realistic and I am delighted to have achieved that. The road book was extra important today. Because of the weather some extra sand spits had formed overnight and it was important to keep your concentration. I had a good pace through the stage and that was important.”


Media bulletin No.25 / 11.25 hrs /  Friday 27th March, 2009

BREAKING NEWS... News from leg 5 - Oasis stage finish

Marc Coma wins the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2009 - Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter pips Mark Ackerman (5th o/a) to the stage win - Cyril Despres confirms second place.

Leading positions on Leg 5 - Oasis special (unofficial @ 12.10hrs):


  1. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM 690 R  3h 39m 38s
  2. Mark Ackerman (ZA) KTM 450   3h 40m 21s
  3. Marc Coma (E) KTM 690 R    3h 41m 37s
  4. Jakub Przygonski (PL) KTM 690 R   3h 43m 36s
  5. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 690 R    3h 45m 29s
  6. Dave McBride (GB) Honda CRF 450 X   3h 46m 23s
  7. Sean Gaugain (ZA) Honda CRF 450X   3h 47m 57s

Overall positions after Leg 5 (unofficial @ 12.10hrs):


  1. Marc Coma (E) KTM 690 R    20h 18m 00s
  2. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 690 R    20h 23m 42s
  3. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM 690 R  20h 25m 46s
  4. Sean Gaugain (ZA) Honda CRF 450X   20h 46m 11s
  5. Mark Ackerman (ZA) KTM 450   20h 50m 13s
  6. Jakub Przygonski (PL) KTM 690 R   20h 50m 32s
  7. Dave McBride (GB) Honda CRF 450 X   20h 58m 38s
  8. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM LC4    21h 56m 33s
  9. Sébastien Husseini (NL) KTM 525 XC   22h 02m 36s*
  10. Sean Linton (GB) Honda CRF 450 X   22h 11m 50s

* denotes quad

Marc Coma (2) - “It’s a great feeling to take a second win of the season (Coma won the Dakar Rally in January) and to keep up that winning run. It means a lot to me and I want to keep working hard and improving. Today was very difficult. The first part of the stage was in a sand storm and you could not see the dunes or the track too well. The last section was faster, but there were some difficult sand spits to deal with. Because of the weather it was another road book today! I used the regulations to my advantage and now I have a third win here.”

Cyril Despres (1) - “It was not meant to be for me. The regulations were not in my favour and I still don’t agree with that. Marc changed his start position and both factors worked against me. Still, it wasn’t easy today.”

Mark Ackerman (42) - “I am very happy with the result and the performance on the stage today. It was not easy. We were getting bumped around all over the place by the wind. The storm took the top crust off the surface and it was very soft in places and difficult for all the riders. It was much harder than last year’s Desert Challenge. Last year was more predictable, but the weather conditions made it difficult here this week.”

Media bulletin No.24 / 15.35 hrs /  Thursday 26th March, 2009

News from leg 4 - Hertz stage

The day’s stage was stopped at PC4 with five cars and one motorcycle still in the special stage. This was as a result of deteriorating weather conditions and the fact that the safety helicopter could not fly over the final section of the stage. The affected entrants will be granted a notional time for that section in due course.

A sand storm has hampered visibility for the last two hours at the Tal Mureeb bivouac.

Media bulletin No.23 / 13.35 hrs /  Thursday 26th March, 2009

News from leg 4 - Hertz stage finish


Sean Gaugain (22) - “It was a good stage for me. The wind was not a problem for me on the stage, but it was a little tricky on the way back. I had a little push into the service and then found a good pace. Tomorrow is the last stage and the race is almost over, so I will not be risking anything. There’s no point breaking yourself into pieces to try and gain a place.”


Guerlain Chicherit (201) - “It was tricky today in a couple of places for about six or eight kilometres and I took my time to make sure we did not make a mistake. I started to feel a little bit sick again and decided to stop at the CP3 (contrôle de passage (CP) in French), the service, for around 25 minutes to take a break and let my blood cool down. It was a good decision. We had a good lead anyway. Now I will take no risks on Friday and try and reach the finish in Abu Dhabi.”

Media bulletin No.22 / 11.45 hrs /  Thursday 26th March, 2009

News from leg 4 - Hertz stage


Leading positions on Leg 4 - Hertz special (unofficial @ 11.45hrs):

  1. Obaid Echtibi (UAE) Honda TRX    4h 19m 34s*
  2. Sean Gaugain (ZA) Honda CRF 450X   4h 19m 53s
  3. Jakub Przygonski (PL) KTM 690 R   4h 20m 17s
  4. Sébastien Husseini (UAE) KTM 525 XC   4h 21m 33s*
  5. Mark Ackerman (ZA) KTM 450    4h 23m 06s
  6. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM 690 R   4h 23m 57s
  7. Dave McBride (GB) Honda CRF 450 X   4h 25m 01s
  8. Marc Coma (E) KTM 690 R    4h 25m 48s
  9. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 690 R    4h 28m 00s

* denotes quad

Overall positions after Leg 4 (unofficial @ 11.45hrs):

  1. Marc Coma (E) KTM 690 R    16h 36m 23s
  2. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 690 R    16h 38m 13s
  3. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM 690 R   16h 45m 58s
  4. Sean Gaugain (ZA) Honda CRF 450X   16h 58m 14s
  5. Jakub Przygonski (PL) KTM 690 R   17h 07m 36s
  6. Mark Ackerman (ZA) KTM 450    17h 09m 32s
  7. Dave McBride (GB) Honda CRF 450 X   17h 12m 15s

Media bulletin No.21 / 10.45 hrs /  Thursday 26th March, 2009

News from leg 4 - Hertz stage, At 10.45hrs, 13 bikes had passed PC4 and were heading to the stage finish, with South African rider Sean Gaugain holding a virtual stage lead. Nine cars had passed PC3 and Guerlain Chicherit was comfortably in the lead.


Abdullah Al Herais (209) - The UAE driver was running third on the stage through PC2, but lost around 20 minutes with technical problems before the third passage control and slipped down the leader board.

Media bulletin No.20 / 08.30 hrs /  Thursday 26th March, 2009

News from leg 4 - Hertz stage, Thirty-seven bikes and quads, 20 cars and one truck were granted an official start time for the fourth leg.


Youcef Cummings (8) - Did not restart this morning. He completed the third stage on Wednesday and complained of shoulder pain. Medical checks revealed that he had broken his collarbone at the same location as a previous injury.

Media bulletin No.19 / 17.50 hrs /  Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage finish

CARS - update

Fifteen of the day’s 22 starters in the car and truck sections had completed the third leg at 17.50hrs, including the Italian Iveco truck (234), which finished the section in 12th position in a time of 8h 58m 44s.

Cars to finish the stage included Franco Grigoletto (216), Joseph Rosso (204) and Matar Al Mansouri (230)

Media bulletin No.18 / 16.18 hrs / Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage finish

CARS - update

At 16.18hrs (local time) only nine cars had completed the selective section and Ian Barker (214) and Abdul Bari Bin Sougjhat (232) had not reached the second passage control, according to the event’s Iritrack system.

A further seven vehicles were battling through the sand dunes between PC4 and the Tal Mureeb bivouac.

Media bulletin No.17 / 15.40 hrs / Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage finish

CARS - update

Yayha Al Helai (202) - “I am very lucky today. I was racing alongside Ahmed Bin Soughat and there was a caution in the road book. The helicopter was there and I wanted to give the people (media) a nice photo. I was in third gear, with a speed of about 120 (km), and I never saw this jump! Ahmed slowed down and I broke the front drive shaft. But, I managed to get to the finish - 130km with just two-wheel drive!”

Media bulletin No.16 / 14.15 hrs /  Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage finish


Yayha Al Helai (202) - “We made it! I was running well and had no problems. Then we broke a drive shaft at km 210, I think, and I drove the rest of the stage in two-wheel drive! I lost time, but I made it!”

Ahmed bin Soughat (212) - “All okay for me today, except for some minor engine temperatures. To finish second on the stage is a good feeling.”

Media bulletin No.15 / 13.30 hrs /  Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3  - Nissan stage finish


Guerlain Chicherit (201) - “It was a really tough job to reach the finish. I was driving so good until the CP2, at the assistance, and I was pushing hard. After that I started to feel a bit sick and I had a big mental fight to keep it going. I think it is a combination of the heat and the motion of being, like in a boat, in the dunes. The car was perfect, the mechanics did a great job and Tina (Thorner) was superb today. I was not in a good shape and she encouraged me to the finish.”

Media bulletin No.14 / 13.03 hrs / Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage


Alex Zanotti (37)  - Suffering from a lack of water and severe dehydration and received medical assistance at the scene, before being evacuated from the stage.
Khalid Al Falaisi (21) - Fell off his bike and complained of abdominal and back pains and has been airlifted to Madinat Zayed hospital for medical checks.

News from PC4


Yayha Al-Helai (202) - “We are struggled through the last kilometres with only two-wheel drive. We had a problem before the fourth PC and dropped a lot of time.”

Media bulletin No.13 / 12.03 hrs / Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage finish


Marc Coma (2) - “Today was an important stage and the longest of the rally. I tried to push from the front early on, but it was not easy to stretch away from the others. It was not enough and I tried again near the end to try and get some time back. Like always, it was a sea of sand, 95% sand. I need to try again tomorrow, but I am not in the best position now.”

Cyril Despres (2) - “I thought that Marc (Coma) might have taken a little more time out of me than he did today. From the first 25km I really tried to ride hard and gain some time. Now I have to open the road tomorrow and he will catch me. But, then I have the chance to catch him again on the final day and that is important. This is typical for the Desert Challenge. It is never easy.”

Media bulletin No.12 / 10.30 hrs / Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3 - Nissan stage


Oscar Polli (44) - “I had a small problem with the engine and there was no power. Then, after about 25km, I had a small accident and decided it was not worth carrying on. The mechanic will fix the bike and I will start tomorrow, but it has not been a good rally for me so far.”

Media bulletin No.11 / 10.00 hrs / Wednesday 25th March, 2009

News from leg 3: The third Nissan stage started as per the original time schedule, with 39 bikes and quads and 21 cars and one truck given an official start time.


Ramesh Pereira (231) - His Nissan Patrol was destroyed by a fire early in the second selective section on Tuesday.

Antonio Manfrinato (217) - There were several minor collisions in the sand dunes on the second selective section on Tuesday. The Italian became stuck in a sand bowl and tried to reverse up an incline to gain speed for another attempt at scaling a sand ridge, but he was struck from behind by a Nissan Patrol and his Nissan Navara sustained superficial bodywork damage.

Media bulletin No.10 / 14.30 hrs / Tuesday 24th March, 2009

News from leg 2 - stage finish


Guerlain Chicherit (201) - “The first 210km were very good, but then the engine put itself into ‘security mode’ and we had the alarm. I stopped a couple of times, because I did not want to damage anything. It was a very hard stage and I am so glad to be here and still leading the rally. It’s great experience for me to be opening the road. It doesn’t happen very often. Tina (Thorner) and I are communicating much better today. There is a big improvement.”

Media bulletin No.9 / 14.00 hrs / Tuesday 24th March, 2009

News from leg 2: Several riders and drivers struggled to pass the bowl of sand between the dunes before PC2, including Ali Al Shawi (229) and Raed Baker (206).


Marc Coma (2) - “Today was the first day in the big dunes and the real desert. I am glad to be here with no real problems and we can see tomorrow where we lie and what we will do.”

Cyril Despres (1) - “I sort of expected Marc (Coma) to close the gap today. The delay this morning with the fog did not help. I did not start well and had a small headache until the refuelling. I was not 100% today. Losing one hour or so this morning meant that the sand was soft and not easy.”

Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (3) - “I am happy. I managed to catch Marc (Coma) and Cyril (Despres). It was not an easy stage and the sand dunes were difficult to read.”

Sean Gaugain (22) - “I did not expect to win today. I pushed hard at the start and relaxed a little in the middle and had a couple of small crashes. But it was not easy and I am not looking forward to leading the way into the stage tomorrow. I will enjoy the moment though. This is my first stage win on this scale. It is a good feeling.”


Nabil Al Shamsi (227) - Retired from the stage and returned to the Tal Mureeb bivouac.

Media bulletin No.8 / 12.30 hrs / Tuesday 24th March, 2009

News from leg 2


Glenn Reid (211) - Retired with clutch problems. “We got to the start line and actually started the stage, but the clutch had been playing up and the master cylinder seal had gone. We thought it better to come back and fix it, take a stage penalty and start tomorrow, rather than risk getting stuck in the dunes and lose two days.”

Media bulletin No.7 / 11.30 hrs / Tuesday 24th March, 2009

News from leg 2


James West (3) - Led the bike category at PC1, but fell shortly after the passage control. He received swift medical attention at the scene and was transferred by helicopter to hospital in Madinat Zayed. He sustained a broken right femur, just above the knee.

Media bulletin No.6 / 11.00 hrs / Tuesday 24th March, 2009

News from leg 2: Low-lying fog forced the stage start to be delayed by 75 minutes on safety grounds.


Mohammed Al-Shamsi (52) - Stable and recovering in hospital after his fall on Monday. He sustained four broken lumbar vertebrae and one broken right rib in the incident. There is no neurological damage and Mohammed is expected to make a full recovery. The organizers wish Mohammed a speedy recovery.

Media bulletin No.5 / 15.10 hrs / Monday 23rd March, 2009

News from leg 1: Stage finish


Glenn Reid (211) - “I am pretty happy with the day’s result, but we had a transmission problem on the stage and I had to change from second to fourth for the last 80kms. I was also worried because we were running low on fuel.”

Ricardo Leal dos Santos (210) - “Not a bad day at all. It was not a day of big dunes, but it was a good stage to get back into the feel of the desert. We rebuilt the car after the Dakar, so I wanted to take it steady early on and then build up as the week goes on.”

Media bulletin No.4 / 14.20 hrs / Monday 23rd March, 2009

News from leg 1: Stage finish


Cyril Despres (1) - “A stage win is always nice, but I have noticed a difference with the desert since I was here in November. The sand is a different colour and the dunes are ‘more red’. It is amazing what can happen in a few months. It was a strategy to start at the back today.  I managed to hit the gatch road first after the refuelling and passed Marc. Then it was a case of riding fast to the finish. Tomorrow will be another game, with him following me.”

Marc Coma (2) - “It was not a big day of sand dunes, but it was the first day in the desert and a 270km special. There is a long way to go and we will have another good fight tomorrow.”

Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (3) - “It was not a real problem for me today. The wind was useful. It kept away any problems with dust.”

Jakub Przygonski (6) - “It was a very quick stage. I am happy with my position, because I started third on the road this morning and I was first through the passage control and was able to reach the finish first. I feel like a bit of a hero to reach the stage finish before anyone else. I had a small problem with my road book motor. The page was torn and I had to stop for a couple of minutes to fix it.”


Guerlain Chicherit (201) - “I am very happy to get the first desert stage out of the way with a good lead. It was not easy. It was my first stage with Tina (Thorner). She is very good, but I have had pace notes in French for many years and, a couple of times, I heard the wrong note in English and made a small mistake. But, we have four more days to get used to each other and for me to gain more experience in the car.”

Media bulletin No.3 / 12.55 hrs / Monday 23rd March, 2009

News from leg 1: Strong winds, shifting sand and reduced visibility in the early kilometres around Abu Dhabi and the stage start.


Mohammed Al-Shamsi (52) ? Had a nasty fall at the 108km point, shortly before PC1, and has a suspected back injury. The UAE rider has been airlifted by helicopter to Mafraq hospital for medical treatment.

Rafal Sonik (61) ? Fell heavily and has been airlifted by a media helicopter for medical treatment to a broken wrist.

Media bulletin No.2 / 13.30 hrs / Saturday 21st March, 2009

Quotes from today’s pre-event press conference - ADIMSC


Cyril Despres (1) -  “I have a great rivalry with Marc (Coma) and we are sure to have a fantastic battle next week. I would like to thank Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Abu Dhabi for putting the event on this year. March is normally a quiet time at home for me and it is great to be here for the Desert Challenge.”

James West (3) - “I have made the switch to the bigger bike and it is totally different. Things creep up on you a lot faster on the bigger bike and you have to concentrate far more, especially on the fast gatch roads, in the ruts and over the bumps. I managed to get on the podium last year and the goal this time is to do the same again and get a little closer to Marc (Coma) and Cyril (Despres).”

Khalid Al Falaisi (21) - “I have trained hard for this race and feel that I can beat Sean (Gaugain) and win the 450cc category this year. I have been to France and Germany to continue my training. It will not be easy, but I am ready.”

Mohammed Al Shamsi (52) - This is my sixth Desert Challenge. I began in 2004 and have taken part every time since. The first one started well, but I ended up in a medical helicopter. Thankfully, it has gone better since then and I am confident that I can do well this time.”


Guerlain Chicherit (201) - “I don’t feel any pressure at all. I am here to gain more experience with the car. Yes, Tina and the team won last year, but I feel I can achieve a win as well. I don’t think the temperatures will be too much of a problem. I had a minor stomach problem when I was here in 2007, but that was not linked to the heat.”

Yayha Al Helai (202) - “I hope that I can win this year. I have a great opportunity this time. It would be a dream for me to become the first driver from the UAE to win the Desert Challenge.”

Media bulletin No.1 / 16.00 hrs / Friday 20th March, 2009

Entry list changes


David Casteu (5) - has withdrawn


Matar Al-Mansouri (227) - Emirati female driver, Rabab Ahmad Ali Mohammed Ali Al Tajir (Rabab Al Tajir as per the entry list) will co-drive for Matar Al-Mansouri in a Nissan Patrol. Al Tajir first took part in local national rallies two years ago with Lebanese driver, Richie Hnoein. She returns to the co-driving seat for her first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Al Tajir is the third female on the co-drivers’ entry list this year: Sweden’s Tina Thörner partnered Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to victory in 2008 and this time she sits alongside Frenchman, Guerlain Chicherit. Meanwhile, Dubai-based Sheila Hutton-Barker will partner her husband, Ian, in a Nissan Patrol.


The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2009, a natural evolution of the 18-year-old UAE Desert Challenge, is open to competitors driving cars and trucks complying with FIA T1, T2 and T4 technical regulations and motorcyclists and quads running under FIM auspices. This year's event covers 2,000 kilometres and is due to open with an entry of 29 cars, 34 bikes, 11 quads and two trucks.

The actual competitive action will get underway with a timed super special stage at Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club on Sunday, March 22. The outcome of the short off-road section, which will be close enough to the city centre to attract thousands of motor sport enthusiasts, will determine the starting order for the event’s all-important first desert leg on Monday, March 23. The event ends on March 27.