“A spine-compressing day, your lower back took a lot of strain,” is how competitors described today’s third stage of the 2003 UAE Desert Challenge. South Africa’s cross-country rally motorcycle master, Alfie Cox, today proved his exceptional ability, and the reason why he is still considered one of the worlds best, during the most gruelling 359.60 km desert section of the race, competing through the Rub Al-Khali in Abu Dhabi today (Wednesday). -

- It took the overall race leader and last year’s winner, Frenchman Cyril Despres 200km to catch Cox, who did the navigat-

-ion in the front through the very testing stage of the 2003 UAE Desert Challenge. Cox started this race with a number of concerns, but has proven to friends and critics that he is a definite force to reckon with, probably more than ever before. Navigating from the front and racing in very testing conditions, gave Despres and Debrowski (Poland) a chance to make up a lot of time on Cox, which they did not manage, definitely not to the proportions that everyone expected. In his own cheeky French style, Despres said: "I had to ride hard to keep up with Alfie, he is a tough competitor for an old man! It was difficult physically today. Very hard on the body." -

- Cox proved during the Pharaohs Rally and in this event that he definitely has the nerve, speed, strength, discipline, and most of all the navigation skills that only experience provides, to be a major factor in the 2004 Dakar race. In addition the awesome hammering to his upper body and specifically his shoulders proved that he has fully recovered from the injuries sustained in the 2003 Dakar event. -

- Whilst going through the road book last night, Cox informed us on his strategies and the places he had to watch out for Despres and Debrowski, he expected the boys to catch up much earlier than they did, which resulted in him not only finishing third today, but maintaining his second place overall. -

- At the finish Cox said: “Today was definitely the toughest day of this event, both navigational, physical, mentally and riding wise. The dunes were big in some cases at least 50m high, which is dangerous when cresting the top, which I can describe as having a sharp drop off, together with the descent having big holes, which become "traps", this is where many of the cars had problems. The desert can be very deceiving with no contrasting colour of different sands and the holes in the track blending into the background, you have to concentrate all the time, otherwise it spells tragedy. It was once again very hot and so physically very demanding. The slow speeds navigating and tackling the dunes is hard work, braking, accelerating all the time, no time to take your eyes off the road book and track. You had to be mentally alert or else you could get hurt.” -

- ”Starting first off the line today, the pressure was on, having said that, I managed to keep the pack of wolves off me until kilometre 200 odd, it was only in the last set of big dunes that they caught me, so yeah navigation wise I am happy with my performance,” said a jubilant Cox after the finish. -

- Tomorrow (Friday) is a two-stage day, the final day of the 2003 UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge. Explaining about his position, Cox said: “I start 4 min. behind Cyril and 2 min. behind Dabrowski; I have to secure my second place overall and in order to do this I will try to come back a minute or so on Dabrowski on the fast stage 4.” -

- “Stage 5 is full of navigation, not through dunes but we are now heading back to Dubai which means there are many farms to go through - the road book is thick with an instruction every 100 or so meters, so that is definitely going to slow the front riders down. You will have to be "on the money" with navigation. The route then winds its way past Nahel Town and the 191.25 km final competitive stage draws to a close on the Emirates Road, near Jebel Ali South. A short road liaison takes the surviving crews on to the finish ramp at the DIMC, Mina Seyahi, at 4pm,” concluded Cox. -

- SPECIAL STAGE 3 RESULTS - MOTORCYCLES (UNOFFICIAL) -

- 1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 4h 32m 22s-

- 2. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 4h 36m 34s-

- 3. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 4h 38m 22s-

- 4. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 4h 40m 30s-

- 5. Dave McBride (UAE) KTM 4h 43m 32s-

- 6. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 4h 47m 05s-

- OVERALL POSITIONS AFTER LEG 3 - MOTORCYCLES (UNOFFICIAL) -

- 1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 12h 27m 46s-

- 2. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 12h 37m 06s-

- 3. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 12h 38m 51s-

- 4. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 12h 49m 46s-

- 5. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 13h 03m 07s-

- 6. Dave McBride (UAE) KTM 13h 05m 51s-

- 7. Andy Caldecott (AUS) KTM 660 Rally 13h 10m 41s-

- 8. Francois Flick (F) KTM Replica 13h 23m 32s-

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Original article from Car