x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Joy for Team X-Raid and Coma, but heartache for broken-leg victim Gaugain

Team X-Raid secured a hat-trick of titles in the Emirates as Leonid Novitskiy and Andy Schulz triumph in the Auto category.

LIWA // Team X-Raid, having won the UAE Desert Challenge in 2008 and the rebranded Abu Dhabi race last year, secured a hat-trick of titles in the Emirates yesterday after Leonid Novitskiy, the Russian driver, and teammate Andy Schulz, of Germany, triumphed in the Auto category. The pair had led for the majority of the five-day endurance event and never looked like relinquishing their grip on a third successive victory in the UAE.

The win provides them with the first title of the new FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup season. Novitskiy's conquest was marred, however, by an accident involving Sean Gaugain, the South African bike rider. The Honda Gecko man was in second place behind Marc Coma, the eventual Moto winner, when he came off his bike late in the afternoon. The crash resulted in him being airlifted to hospital where it was confirmed he had broken a leg and fractured his collar bone.

Coma, of Spain, went on to take his fourth title in five years to secure the opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. "It's always special to win a race - especially in such hard conditions," said Coma. "We had a sand storm on the first day, which is not such a big problem for us on a bike, but it made conditions very difficult for everyone else. "I am delighted to win here again; it is not easy."

Ronan Morgan, the clerk of the course and the director of sports projects for the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, said he believed this week's event had surpassed any of the previous 19 events. "Overall it has been a great success and we are already looking forward to next year's event," he said. gmeenaghan@thenational.ae