Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team’s Pablo Quintanilla again advanced to second overall after stage three of the five-stage Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the opening round of the FIM Cross-Countries Rally Championship. The Chilean rider now goes into the penultimate stage from a position of strength as he opens his bid to defend his 2016 world title.

Factory teammate Pela Renet, winner of stage two was fifth in the stage and is currently sixth overall.

This race is largely about tactics and Quintanilla was able to start from a position of strength on Tuesday. He won back valuable time, where Renet, as stage two winner had to open the track and was pre-programmed to sacrifice some time. Quintanilla will be second off the start in the penultimate stage and trails overall leader Sam Sunderland by just over three minutes. Renet is currently just under 12 minutes off the overall lead time but he has a good chance of recovering some of it in Wednesday’s penultimate stage.

Pablo Quintanilla: “Today was a better day than yesterday. I had a good position at the start and I recovered some time. I felt really good today and it was a fun stage. There were big dunes and it was really fast. I enjoyed it a lot. We have two more stages to go and I start in front tomorrow. I will lose some time but I have the chance to pick this up on the last day, so at the moment I am very happy with the race I feel very good, and for me this is important to have a lot of good confidence on the bike. I am also happy with the team and they are doing a great job.”

Pela Renet: “It was a nice stage to ride and I enjoyed it a lot. I was opening the track so for sure I knew I was going to lose some minutes. But I’m really happy with the stage and I was out in front until the 140 km mark. Okay, today I finished fifth but I am still very happy with my day.” Once again, riders faced extreme temperatures hovering between 40-46 degrees Celsius and high winds. This, together with the extremely high, soft sand dunes added to another dimension to the navigation challenges and riding skills required to succeed in this tough competition.

Results Stage 3 – AL ALN Special: 288.73 kms 1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM 3:55.23 h 2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna + 6:01.0 min 3. Matthias Walkner (AT), + 9:02 4. Paolo Gonçalves (POR), Honda + 12:03 5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna + 17:43

Overall Standings (after three of five stages) 1. Sunderland 11:41.20 h 2. Quintanilla + 3:06.7 min 3. Walkner + 5:14 4. Gonçalves + 7:47 5. Renet + 11:57