South African Josh Brodalka won his second Emirates Desert Championship race in a row to narrow the gap in the championship fight to current leader Mohammed Al Balooshi.

Brodalka, racing for the Powertec UAE team and aboard a KTM SXF 350 for the first time, emerged victorious from a close fought battle with fellow KTM mounted riders Mohammed Jaffar, Mohammed Al Balooshi and Ross Runnalls. In fact, a gap of just five seconds, the smallest in Emirates Desert Championship history separated Brodalka from Jaffar after approximately 120km of racing. 

Balooshi was a further 7 seconds back, scoring valuable championship points as well as a win in the Veterans Class, while reigning champion Runnalls ultimately finished in fifth place behind Abdulla Al Shatti having just returned from the serious hand injury he suffered at Round 2 back in November 2016.

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“The first couple of laps were nice and mellow, as everyone was in the grove battling it out”, said Brodalka.

“Then on the last lap I had Mohammed Al Balooshi and Mohammed Jaffar come out of nowhere, and those guys are fast, so the last half of the lap was a crazy battle with a couple of sketchy moments! But it was one of the best races I’ve had in a long time and I’m really happy with the win!” Brodalka concluded.

Brodalka also took first in the premier 450cc Class, with Kuwaiti Jaffar in second and hic compatriot Al Shatti in an excellent third.

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Elsewhere, Balooshi took his third straight win in the Veteran’s Class, with Pieter Du Plessis a distant second in class eight minutes back, and Briton Steven Bainbridge a podium debutant in third spot. The same three riders hold the same respective positions in the Championship standings.

Last season’s Masters Champion and Ex-WRC driver Janne Tuohino took his second win of the season in his class for the SRG Motorsports Husqvarna Team, utilising a different refuelling strategy to beat the chasing pack of Tim Trenker, Shannon O’Connor and David McBride. After starting in the same wave, this group was separated by only a margin of six seconds.

In the Over 450 Class, Sultan Al Balooshi was eventually crowned winner following a 3 minute time penalty to fellow KTM rider Benjamin Melot, as a result of incorrectly entering one of the passage controls. Melot, who had just this week returned back from his day job as one of the most highly regarded motorcycle mechanics at the Dakar Rally, was followed by Husqvarna rider and 2013-14 Motorcycle Champion in third place in class.

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In the Marathon Class, the close racing between championship leader Tom Childs of Vendetta Racing UAE and Powertec UAE’s Shelby Ingrilli got a bit too close with the pair eventually crashing into each other. Thankfully no rider was injured and Ingrilli emerged victorious on the day, although second place was enough for Childs to keep his championship lead intact. Emirati Saif Al Kumliti was third.

Emirati rider Mohammed Al Shamsi was a dominant winner in the quad class, with the 2013-14 Champion taking his first victory in the category since the opening round of last season in October 2015. The runner up was Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi of Saudi Arabia, with Obaid Al Kitbe in third place and extending his lead in the quad championship. 

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Dana Miskulnig was winner in the Ladies Cup beating Elisha Dessurne into second place and taking the lead in the championship from Sune Schaffler, missing this round due to injury.

The Championship has now entered a busy period, with round three being the first of three events to be scheduled in a period of just five weeks. round four is scheduled for Friday 3rd February, with the season concluding at the fifth round two weeks later on Friday 17th February.

The Emirates Desert Championship is the UAE’s national baja rally championship for Cars, Buggies, Motorcycles and Quads and is organized by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF).

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Words Stuart Murray | Images: Tim Ansell & Greg Falski