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Sam Sunderland kicks off 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with stage win

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Sam Sunderland kicks off 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with stage win
Feeling fit and motivated following his Dakar Rally podium success earlier in the year, Sam Sunderland unquestionably comes into the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as one of the favourites. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Brit Sam Sunderland has gotten his 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship campaign off to an excellent start with a win on stage one of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ahead of Andrew Short and Jose Ignacio Cornejo.

The opening day of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge saw riders cover a total of 370.86 kilometres as they left the famous Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi to head south, through the desert towards the bivouac at the Qasr Al Sarab resort. The strong winds and sandstorm that greeted riders at the start of the 261.97-kilometre timed special only added to the challenge of the stage.

Feeling fit and motivated following his Dakar Rally podium success earlier in the year, Sam Sunderland unquestionably comes into the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as one of the favourites. Despite being the 10th rider away from the start of the timed special, the KTM rider soon found himself at the front, leading the way through the dunes.

First to reach the finish, Sam now tops the provisional standings by over six minutes from second-placed Andrew Short.

‰ÛÏI‰Ûªm always a bit nervous to start a new championship, but myself and the team did some really good work in Morocco a few weeks ago and as such I felt really strong in the dunes here in Abu Dhabi," Sunderland said. "The conditions were really difficult today with the high winds and bad visibility. I pushed really hard right from the start and ended up opening from around kilometre 60. From there I just kept to a good pace and thankfully everything went well. Looking forward to tomorrow now.‰Û
Sam Sunderland kicks off 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with stage win
Andrew Short has put in a superb performance during stage one to finish as runner-up. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Competing in his first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Andrew Short has put in a superb performance during stage one to finish as runner-up, just six minutes down on the Sunderland. The eighth rider away from the start of the timed special, Short not only had to learn how to deal with the undulating dunes of the Liwa Desert but was also forced to brave the strong winds and a sandstorm that battered the riders near the beginning of the stage.

‰ÛÏThe first day has gone well for me, I am happy to finish second," Short enthused. "I was fortunate to be able to ride behind Sam for a good distance, he was riding really well and opening the stage really fast. For me, as it‰Ûªs my first time here, it was good to see how he rides the terrain and sets his pace over the dunes. The place looks like Mars ‰ÛÒ it‰Ûªs really difficult to read the terrain but I hope to improve as the event continues.‰Û
Sam Sunderland kicks off 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with stage win
Jose Ignacio Cornejo was the third fastest on stage one. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Monster Enrgy's young gun Jose Ignacio Cornejo rounded out the top three on the opening stage 6‰Ûª46‰Û

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