x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Al Fahim, Shamsi and Gaugain come out on top in inaugural UAE Desert Championship

Automobile and Touring Club UAE president Mohammed ben Sulayem delighted with event's debut.

Bikes tear through the sand during the UAE Desert Championship. Courtesy UAE Desert Championship
Bikes tear through the sand during the UAE Desert Championship. Courtesy UAE Desert Championship

Ahmad Al Fahim celebrated a double success at the inaugural UAE Desert Championship, while fellow Emirati Mohammed Shamsi and Dubai-based South African Sean Gaugain were the other big winners in the new national Baja rally series.

Victory in the fourth and final round of the 2013/14 championship sent Al Fahim past Ahmad Al Maqoodi to clinch the overall cars and buggies titles.

The battle for the quads crown was just as fiercely contested, with Shamsi taking second place on the day behind Colin Mercer, but still beating him by seven points to emerge as champion, with three out of four rounds counting toward the final standings.

Coming under pressure in the bikes title chase from Sam Sunderland, who won his first stage in the Dakar Rally last month, Gaugain held on to take the championship by three points from the Dubai-based English rider, despite being beaten by him into second place on the day.

The new series provides a natural link into to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the UAE’s round of both the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies for cars, and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes, which runs for the 24th time starting on April.

Automobile and Touring Club UAE president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “I’m very happy with the quality and quantity of entries we’ve had in the inaugural UAE Desert Championship.

“We’ve mixed everything together – the cars, buggies, bikes and quads – so it’s a miniature Desert Challenge. We’ve had great support from all the drivers and riders and I want to thank them for that. This is a good start, and we want to grow the Desert Championship next year.”

Double champion Al Fahim said: “This is a good preparation for the Desert Challenge. We really enjoy these type of rallies. It’s a really good environment and the safety factor is very high.”

Sunderland, who finished the series with successive victories, said: “The championship is awesome. It’s really good to promote the sport in the UAE. It’s been a great first series and I’m really happy to have won the last two rounds.”