x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Raja makes it count after getting 'a bit lucky'

Last year's Rookie Cup winner benefits after champion Tannir slids off in the first race.

DUBAI // Surya Raja arrived on the scene of the Motorcity UAE Sportbike Championship a year ago, and the Dubai-based rider made an immediate impression by winning the Rookie Cup. This year he has started where he left off by winning the two opening races of the season at Dubai Autodrome.

Raja, riding a Yamaha in the 600 Class, was somewhat fortuitous in the first race when the reigning champion Mahmoud Tannir, riding the Duseja Motors Triumph, slid off early on in the race, handing the lead to Raja who held it until the end. Joe Oxley was second on a Ducato and Rob Nicholas third aboard his Triumph.

For the second race Tannir was relegated to the back of the grid, which inspired him as he gave a gutsy performance, storming through the field to take the lead around halfway.

But the champion had worked his tyres too hard in the process, allowing Raja to reel him in, with the finish in sight, to claim his second win on the day, with second place going to Tannir and Nicholas third again.

"I did not expect … these wins," Raja said. "I knew we would be contenders, but this feels great to win the first two races of the season. I was a bit lucky in the first race, but am really satisfied with the second win. When Tannir got past me, something told me to hang in there and not give up, and then things went my way again. So the win is extra special."

As for the rest of the season Raja was cautious. "It is still very early days. Mahmoud [Tannir] is a tough guy and he will bounce back," he said.

In the Rookie Class, the Suzuki rider Dominik von Poelnitz started his racing career in the best way possible with two victories out of two.

Abdulaziz bin Laden won twice in the 1000 Class, and Natasha Seatter of Malaysia triumphed twice in the Formula Gulf 1000.

* Agency