Brit Sam Sunderland has won the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after topping the timesheets on the fifth and final day.
Sunderland claimed the overall race victory by over three minutes, after close to 17 hours of racing while American Ricky Brabec took the runner up spot with Pablo Quintanilla third. With two round wins in a row now Sunderland no leads the 2022 FIM Rally-Raid World Championship, where he sits dominantly at the top of the standings with 63 points, 17 points ahead of Quintanilla.
Sunderland went into the final 371km final stage with a narrow 23-second lead over the second-placed rider. Not backing down, the 2022 Dakar winner came out fighting to deliver what is arguably his most impressive stage result of the event. By kilometre 83, Sam had moved into the stage lead on time and from there he didn’t look back. Steadily increasing his lead, he went on to secure the overall race win
“It feels so cool to get the win! Abu Dhabi is always a tough race with the strategy and that was even more a factor this year as everyone was right on the pace,” Sunderland said. “If you started a stage further back you didn’t seem to catch up so much time even though you were pushing like hell, so it was definitely a challenge this year. It was a tough race physically as well, partly because of the pace, but because of the heat too, as well as it being so close to Dakar. It feels great to get another win and extend my lead in the championship. It also feels good to be able to reward the team like this because they have all worked so hard all week, and it’s results like this that makes it all worth it. The plan now is to keep the ball rolling and carry this momentum into the third round.”
Ricky Brabec was able to make it onto the final podium in the runner-up spot after finishing second on the final stage.
“The final stage was great,” Brabec said. “The times were very close. We knew that it was going to be tough today to make up enough time in the overall standings. I did what I could to get onto the podium. I got ahead of my team-mate Pablo who also had a good push today. Overall it was a good rally. The team and the riders did a good job. The rally was tight all week with times going back and forth. Unfortunately, Sam was the one who stopped longer in the prologue and had the advantage from day one and today on day five. The rally is coming to those who stop the longest in the prologue. We knew it would be hard to beat Sam – he used to live out here. We did our best for the team and we’re looking forward to the next one. Thanks to all the team.”
Brabec’s teammate Pablo Quintanilla finished third overall.
“We have finished the rally and I am very happy to be on the podium,” Quintanilla said. “Today was a difficult last stage for me. I tried to push as hard as I could and towards the middle of the special I caught the riders in front, so I had to open the track until the end. I lost a few minutes at the finish, but that was to be expected. I’m very happy with the result. It was a tough race, with little time to rest and prepare for the race after the Dakar, so now we are back on our schedule. I wish to thank the team for the great work done during all this week and now we can go back home to prepare for the next challenge.”
Australian Toby Price secured his top-five result in the overall rally standings, claiming fourth, 14 seconds ahead of teammate Matthias Walkner.
“I’m pleased with how the race has gone,” Price said. “I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable on the bike and was well in the hunt for the podium, which is definitely an improvement over Dakar. It’s been a tough event and I’m definitely feeling a little bruised and battered right now, but I’ve completed the race in more or less one piece. I got off on the wrong foot on day one with the GPS issue, but that’s out of our control. And the result still isn’t quite where I want to be, but the team has done a great job and we’ve learned a lot from the event. I’ve got a few things to work on before the next race, so we’ll go away now and get ready for the next round.”
Matthias Walkner was fifth overall, eight and a half minutes down on the rally winner.
“I’m super happy to finish the rally with a strong result and without any big problems,” Walkner said. “Any race like this that is held 90% off piste is a huge challenge and you have to stay at maximum focus the whole time. I finished third on today’s stage for fifth overall, which is good, but sometimes the final result doesn’t show the full story. I’m really happy with how I rode here in Abu Dhabi, especially with my navigation while opening the stage. We have made some good changes to the bike too, so all-in-all we’re moving in the right direction.”
The next round of the 2022 FIM Rally-Raid World Championship event will be the Andalucia Rally, starting June 6.
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022 after 5 of 5 stages
1 Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 16:54:24
2 Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 16:57:32 +3:08
3 Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 16:58:20 +3:56
4 Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 17:02:41 +8:17
5 Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 17:02:55 +8:31
6 Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 10m 10s
7 José Ignacio Cornejo , Honda, +14’57
8 Franco Caimi, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 16m 55s
9 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 17:15:17
10 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 17:15:32