Keen to repeat his 2011 win of the Abu Dhabi Challenge, Marc Coma (KTM) immediately set a winning time on stage one of the five day rally. Setting the pace during the 285km stage of the small windswept dunes, Coma placed 69 seconds clear of his closest challenger Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha). Opting to play a tactical race on stage two and finish eleventh, the Spaniard then applied the pressure during stage three. Powering his way through the long and demanding day, Coma regained control of the race to lead the rally by over eight minutes from fellow Spaniard Joan Barreda (Husqvarna). With a comfortable advantage over the rest of the field, Coma held on to win the fifth and final stage of the rally and secured victory in the 22nd edition of the race.
Finishing fourth on the opening stage, Barreda cautiously eased his way into the rally. Posting an impressive time during stage two, the Husqvarna rider started stage three as the rally leader. However, unable to match the pace set by Coma throughout the remainder of the event, Barreda settled for a well earned second overall, finishing 9 minutes and 33 seconds behind the Spaniard.
Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) ©Cristiano Barni/ Speedbrain
Putting himself in contention for a strong finish, Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) ended stage one in fifth. However, crashing with another fallen rider in a dune set the Portuguese rider back. Forced to repair the damage to his Husqvarna TE 449 RR, Goncalves battled back to finish stage three in fourth. Saving his best for last, Goncalves pulled back almost 12 minutes on his rivals to move into third overall. Holding his position during the final stage of the rally, Goncalves ended the 2000km race in third place.
After his impressive win on stage two, KTM’s Ruben Faria finished in fourth. Spain’s Jordi Villadoms (KTM) completed the top five.
FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship continues with round two in Qatar on April 17.
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Marc Coma (KTM) 20h 33’35; 2. Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) 20h 43’08; 3. Paulo Gonçalves (Husqvarna) 20h 53’59; 4. Ruben Faria (KTM) 20h 56’38; 5. Jordi Villadoms (KTM) 21h 01’00…