Spaniard stars across Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as Al-Attiyah and Walkner win.
Spaniard Cristina Gutiérrez made history at the 30th anniversary edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as she gained enough points in the T3 category to become the first-ever female driver to win the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title.
- Gutiérrez and co-driver François Cazalet (FRA) combined for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team to fight back from two tricky opening stages and gain enough points to put themselves beyond the reach of compatriot Fernando Alvarez for an historic, maiden title.
- Earlier this year the Spanish racer had become the first woman to win a stage of the Dakar Rally since Jutta Kleinschmidt's last stage win in 2005 and she followed that feat up with an emotionally charged victory in her native Spain at May's Andalucia Rally and Rally Kazakhstan win in June.
- She sustained three broken vertebrae during the final Kazakhstan stage and, after two months of intense recovery, she returned to win more precious championship points at Rallye du Maroc last month.
- The 30-year-old said: "We are world champions! I can't believe it. After such a hard year I've had, I can't be happier. The first couple of stages in particular were not easy. Finally we managed to find a good pace and avoid mistakes, and took important points for the championship. These races are so long so it's difficult to always be at the front on every stage."
- Fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team crews Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (GER) and Guillaume De Mevius (BEL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) also competed with Quintero retiring on Tuesday due to a stiff neck and De Mevius continuing the mission to prepare their 2022 spec OT3 for Dakar.
- Meanwhile, 50-year-old legend Nasser Al-Attiyah won the first four stages in the T1 car category to build up a huge lead of 23m48s over Argentine Lucio Alvarez heading into the final stage.
- Alvarez finally claimed a stage win by 1m53s from Yazeed Al Rajhi with Al-Attiyah 2m46s back in third to win overall by 21m02s and Poland's Kuba Przygonski fourth on the day after a mixed race.
- Qatar's Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel led the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies going into the race with Al-Attiyah sealing his fifth title and Baumel his fourth with one stop remaining.
- In the bikes, Matthias Walkner - who had the luxury of already having the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title wrapped up - was in the top two on every stage to win by just 4m31s from Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren who was unlucky not to triumph after three stage wins.
- Austrian Walkner's maiden Abu Dhabi victory will give him a boost heading into Dakar 2022, while Australian Daniel Sanders won the third stage before Thursday mechanical problems scuppered his hopes.
- Rookie Sanders still finished third overall in the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, while local fans enjoyed the performance of Mohammed Balooshi (UAE) who ended the race in sixth place.
- Czech Martin Prokop came out on top of the SSV category by a mammoth 4h35m20s after he won the first four stages and finished just seven seconds behind Dutchman Erik van Loon on the last stage.