World Rally-Raid Championship

2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Al-Attiyah, Branch lead Prologue

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Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

Nasser Al-Attiyah entered the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge hoping to find a spark after a frustrating start to 2024. While a Prologue stage usually means little in the big picture as FIA times do not count towards the overall, topping the order should still provide some confidence going into the rest of the week.

Al-Attiyah, now with Édouard Boulanger as his co-driver, edged out Guillaume de Mévius by four seconds for the fastest time among FIA entrants in Monday’s Prologue. Martin Prokop, who missed much of private testing when his Ford Raptor RS was stuck in customs between the Saudi-Emirati border (the car stayed in Saudi Arabia following January’s Dakar Rally), was third.

Cristina Gutiérrez, winner of the Dakar in Challenger, led the class while Mansour Al-Helei was the best in the SSV category. Laia Sanz, Gutiérrez’s new colleague at the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, was fifth to start her second Challenger start. Rebecca Busi had a moment when she overshot her Can-Am Maverick on the downward slope at the end, briefly coasting along her front wheels before landing safely; she finished ninth in SSV.

Tenth-placed Seth Quintero will kick off Stage #1 as the first car on track. Al-Attiyah opted to start at the back in tenth.

Dakar bike runner-up Ross Branch topped the two-wheelers with just two seconds on Michael Docherty. Reigning ADDC Rally2 winner Tobias Ebster was third and five seconds back of Docherty, and one ahead of the RallyGP of Branch’s new team-mate Aaron Marè. Branch and Marè were the only riders in the top class to race as Mohammed Al-Balooshi‘s bike was not approved in time.

Oran O’Kelly finished eighth and will be the first bike out on Tuesday. He initially received a two-minute time penalty after cutting a corner too short, but had it successfully appealed to retain his position.

Kamil Wiśniewski, back in the World Rally-Raid Championship after missing Dakar with a knee injury, was the fastest Quad ahead of Abdulaziz Ahli. The latter is seeking his fourth straight ADDC win.

Prologue winners

Ultimate206Nasser Al-AttiyahNasser Racing3:02.3
Challenger306Cristina Gutiérrez*Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team3:29.6
SSV411Mansour Al-Helei*R-X Sport3:37.5
RallyGP46Ross BranchHero MotoSports3:04
Rally222Michael DochertySRG Motorsports3:06.8
Quad172Kamil WiśniewskiORLEN Team3:39.1
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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