Dubai’s Sam Sunderland wins Round 1 of Emirates Desert Championship bikes category
Fresh from securing a second successive runner-up finish in the FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship, Dubai-based British rider Sam Sunderland returned to the Emirates Desert Championship with a dominant win in the opening round of the series.
The only other rider able to challenge Sunderland was KTM UAE teammate, and last year’s champion, Ross Runnalls, who suffered several mishaps during the day including losing his drinking water pack and a badly timed pit stop that lost him time on his rival and limited him to second place. Emirati Mohammed Al Balooshi was third on the day, as well as winner of the new Veteran Class.
In the quad competition, Kuwaiti rider Fahad Al Musallam picked up his first win in the championship. Former Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Obaid Al Kitbe returned to a quad for the first time in several years to finish in second place, with Saudi Arabia’s Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi in third.
In the auto competition, Emirati Khalid Al Jafla began his title defence strongly with the overall win and first place in the T3 Class. 1993 FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sheikh Hamad Al Thani of Qatar made a strong debut in the series with second overall and first place in the T1 Class.
Mark Powell was the winner in the buggy category, putting in an exceptional performance in the Saluki Motorsport-prepared Yamaha. He was followed in second place by the British crew of Tom Bell and co-driver Patrick McMurren, with newcomer Ryan Trutch in third place, despite having rolled his Polaris several times.
The opening event was held on Friday, October 14 in the Al Lisali region of Dubai in sweltering temperatures.
“For sure, this was a really challenging day for all competitors. As the opening round of the season, it was probably the hottest event of the year, and I’m hugely impressed that so many competitors finished the race,” said Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) president Mohammed ben Sulayem. “Even more importantly, I am delighted that we had no injuries today.
“It was a pleasure to see such a strong turnout today, as well as welcome our first ever competitors from Iceland, Sudan and Pakistan. This demonstrates the huge appeal of this championship and its growing international reputation. We see this as the perfect entry point for off-road motorsport in the region, and we are working to further improve the discipline with the 2017 introduction of the regional level Gulf Challenge competition, as well as our planned debut of our Dubai round of the FIA Cross Country Rally and FIM Baja World Cups.”
The Emirates Desert Championship is organised by the ATCUAE and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation. Five rounds will be held throughout the 2016/17 season with the next event scheduled for Friday, November 11.
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Updated: October 16, 2016 04:00 AM