The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has been an outstanding event for Sunderland. Working closely with his KTM team, the British rider secured his second victory at the race by implementing the perfect strategy over the course of the five-day event. Leading the overall standings by a narrow 18 seconds over the second-placed rider Cornejo coming into today‰Ûªs final stage, Sunderland knew he would have to push right from the start to guarantee a win.
The timed special consisted of the large iconic sand dunes of the Liwa Desert, in the first half of the stage, before flattening out into faster pistes as the route neared the city of Abu Dhabi. Successfully maintaining a strong pace over the first 100 kilometres, Sunderland caught and passed a number of riders ahead of him and made up valuable minutes on his nearest rivals. Arriving at the finish, Sam won the stage by an impressive three-minutes-and-26-seconds from his teammate Benavides and in turn claimed the rally victory by over eight minutes.
‰ÛÏThings went perfectly today," Sunderland said. "We knew coming into today‰Ûªs final stage that we would have to stick to our planned strategy. The stage brought us closer to Abu Dhabi and as such, the tracks towards the end were a lot faster away from the dunes. I knew I would have to push really hard right from the start of the special. I arrived at the refuelling and the team let me know everything was good, so from there it was just a case of bringing it home safely to the finish. I‰Ûªm really happy with the job done by the team all week and myself in the way I rode. It‰Ûªs great to get my 2019 championship off to the perfect start with a win.‰Û