Rallye

Sam Sunderland takes overall victory at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

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Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team‰Ûªs Sam Sunderland on Thursday opened his account in the race for the 2017 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship title with a solid overall victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the opening round of the series.

Sunderland, who in January became the first British rider to win the Dakar Rally, finished with an overall time of 18:14.32.5 hours on his KTM 450 RALLY bike for the five desert stages and the opening Super Special. This gave him an overall winning margin of 6:13.7 minutes on second placed Pablo Quintanilla of Chile. KTM factory teammate Matthias Walkner of Austria finished overall third. The same riders also finished in that order in the fifth and final stage, the Abu Dhabi Aviation, which had a timed special of 234.01 km.
Sam Sunderland about to head into the Abu Dhabi Desert . Credit: Marcin Kin
"I'm happy to take the win of course," Sunderland said. "It's always good, and that's the objective. The team was good all week, and I'm pleased to get the job done. It's almost like a home race for me. I've been close to winning it many times before but to get it done this year feels very cool."

The British-born rider is based in Dubai and this rally, where there were long rides in the soft dunes, and mostly under oppressive temperatures in the high 40 degrees Celsius showed that he is very comfortable in the environment. He also came away with three stage wins in the rally.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team's Pablo Quintanilla wrapped up an intense week of desert riding to finish overall second. Credit: Marcin Kin
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team's Pablo Quintanilla wrapped up an intense week of desert riding to finish overall second. The result laid the groundwork for the Chilean rider to successfully defend his 2016 world title.

"I'm very happy with this result, and about the race and my feeling with the bike," Quintanilla explained. "It was very good for my confidence to feel strong again, and that's important. It's also important to start the world championship in a positive way, and I think we did this. I feel a lot of support from everybody, and the atmosphere in the team was very good. Now I feel strong, and I can fight for the wins again. I think it's important to take a rest and to think about what we did and how we can improve in the future."
KTM's Matthias Walkner rounded out the podium
Walkner, who finished second to Sunderland in the 2017 Dakar Rally showed amazing consistency throughout the five-day competition. He was third in four stages and finished fourth in the other, but said after the race that he had been a little nervous about making a mistake in the final stage.

"It was a really nice stage today and very fast," Walkner said. "I knew everyone had to push because we still had to fight for the podiums. At first, I felt my speed wasn't that good, and I was a bit nervous about making mistakes, but I was able to ride a bit faster after the refueling. Overall I think this was a pretty good result especially because the dunes are not my favorite terrain. They are fun to ride but not for racing."
Monster Energy Honda Team‰Ûªs debut in the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship turned out to be a positive one with good sensations for the team and a fourth overall place for Paulo Gon̤alves
Monster Energy Honda Team‰Ûªs debut in the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship turned out to be a positive one with good sensations for the team and a fourth overall place for Paulo Gon̤alves.

"We have finished the first race in the 2017 world championship. After what happened in the prologue I knew I had little chance of winning," Gon̤alves explained, "Yesterday, I was ahead as the leader, but today the other riders passed me as had been expected and I finished fourth overall. We knew this could happen in a race made up entirely of dunes. I could have got a better result in a four-day rally like this‰Û_ but that‰Ûªs racing for you. The bike ran really well and the team has worked well together. In a few days we begin in Qatar, where we will have to set the pace right from the prologue."

Next Race: April 17, 2017 ‰ÛÒ Sealine Cross-Country Rally (QAT)

Main Photo: Sam Sunderland and crew celebrate
Credit: Marcin Kin


Final Standings Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2017 after 5 of 5 stages
1. Sam Sunderland, 18:14:32,5 h
2. Pablo Quintanilla, +6:13,7 min
3. Matthias Walkner, +8:16,1
4. Paulo Goncalves, +11:10,3
5. Pela Renet, +14:50,8
6. Antoine Meo, +1:09:00,6 h
7. Mohammed Al Balooshi, +1:30:34,2
8. Mohammed Jaffer, +2:54:48
9. Adam Tomiczek (POL), KTM, +2:59:10,3
10. David McBride, +3:06:06,1

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