Red Bull KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain sealed an early victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Thursday after organizers cancelled the final scheduled stage. A sandstorm had made support for the riders impossible. Coma’s win also lays the foundation stone for his bid to secure his seventh world championship title.
Coma wrapped up the win thanks to his 11 minutes 55 seconds lead at the end of Wednesday’s Stage Four. It was his eighth win at this event, making him the KTM rider with the most Desert Challenge victories. KTM riders have won the event every year except three since motorcycles were introduced into the program in 1995.
Marc Coma: “Today they has to suspend the stage because of the weather. This mean’t that we returned to Abu Dhabi on the road. The truth is that the conditions were bad. I am happy and proud to have achieved this eighth victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It was very important to continue in this way, especially after the win in the Dakar. We have picked up a lot of points for the championship and now it’s time to rest and think about the next round in Qatar.”
The rally, the opening round of the 2015 FIM Cross Countries Rally World Championship saw the top four places go to KTM riders. Coma’s teammateSam Sunderland, the British rider who is based in the UAE was second, KTM support rider Pablo Quintanilla of Chile completed the podium and KTM factory rider Ruben Faria of Portugal was fourth. Eight of the top ten were on KTM with Mohammed Al Balooshi (KTM UAE) sixth, Juan Salvatierra (BOL) seventh, Australian Matt Hart eighth and British rider David McBride tenth. KTM factory riders compete on the KTM 450 RALLY.
Austria’s Matthias Walkner, the latest signing to the KTM factory team and one who also delivered an impressive first Dakar Rally in January showed his potential by taking the Stage Four victory. He came in third in Monday’s stage to be fourth overall but then encountered a technical difficulty on Tuesday that put him out of contention. His stage win on Thursday underlined that he is a future podium contender.
Coma rode his usual tactical race reflecting the multi Dakar Rally winner’s rich vein of experience. He secured the first stage win, rode into a favourable position for a good start in Stage Two, then rode a compact and close second in the next two stages, each day consolidating his overall lead.
It was also a good rally for Sunderland who took second in the first two stages and moved from third overall to second when Coma’s main rival Paolo Goncalves of Portugal experienced technical difficulties in Stage Four.
Riders had to contend with extreme temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius, conditions Coma described on Wednesday as ‘like an oven”, a day that other KTM riders Sunderland, Quintanilla, Al Balooshi and Walkner all agreed was very tough riding in the dunes. Coma after the fourth stage: “I rode in a group of five and in the earlier part across the open desert we managed to get a good rhythm going. I then took it easy because of the extreme driving conditions and the heat.”
Final Overall Standings (after Stage Four – Stage Five cancelled due to sand storm)
1, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM, 14 hours 49.05
2, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM at 11.55
3, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 20.16 4, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 28.01 5, Ricky Brabec, USA, Honda at 34.17 6, Moh. Al Balooshi, UAE, KTM at 44.48
7, Juan Salvatierra, BOL, KTM at 1:03.06
8, Matt Hart AUS, KTM at 1:13.15 9, J. Cornejo CHI, Suzuki at 1:13.31 10, David McBride, GBR, KTM 1:17.35