2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Rally-Raid World Championship Rnd2 win for Sam Sunderland
GASGAS Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland wins the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, his second World Championship victory of the season after the Dakar Rally in January – Ricky Brabec snatches second overall on the last stage from his Monster Energy Honda teammate Pablo Quintanilla.
Two rounds into the 2022 FIM Rally-Raid World Championship and Sam Sunderland has ticked off two victories. A closely fought rally in the UAE concluded with the Sunderland, Pablo Quintanilla, Ricky Brabec and Matthias Walkner all fighting for the podium on the final stage.
Just as he had at the Dakar in January, Sunderland had the speed and tactical measure when it mattered and took the final stage win, bringing his career tally in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to three.
“Tough strategic race”
After playing out another tactically smart race from the opening prologue, Sunderland entered the final stage five with a narrow 32 seconds lead but with the advantage of most the top 10 riders in front of him.
That meant a few slender lines in the sand to bounce off as he navigated the final dunes in 40 degree heat and with no let up from the marauding Honda boys.
“It feels so cool to get the win!” Says Sunderland. “Abu Dhabi is always a tough race with the strategy and that was even more a factor this year as everyone was right on the pace. If you started a stage further back you didn’t seem to catch up so much time even though you were pushing like hell, so it was definitely a challenge this year.
“It was a tough race physically as well, partly because of the pace, but because of the heat too, as well as it being so close to Dakar. It feels great to get another win and extend my lead in the championship.
“It also feels good to be able to reward the team like this because they have all worked so hard all week, and it’s results like this that makes it all worth it. The plan now is to keep the ball rolling and carry this momentum into the third round.”
The Honda pairing of Pablo Quintanilla, who started the day P2 and just 32 seconds off the lead, plus Ricky Brabec were both hauling despite being at the disadvantage of starting third and fourth on the stage.
The duo pushed Sunderland and each other right to the final timing beam of the 207 kilomtre special where American Brabec snatched second place from his Chilean teammate by 48 seconds after five days racing.
Fighting to the finish
Setting the pace on the final day having finsihed P2 yesterday, Toby Price claims fourth overall for the rally, remarkably just 14 seconds ahead of his Red Bull KTM teammate Matthias Walkner in fifth.
Victory extends Sunderland’s world championship points lead to 63 ahead of Quintanilla on 46, Walkner on 35 and Brabec jumps up to fourth on 34 points.
Klein claims Rally 2 class
Mason Klein sealed a comfortable Rally 2 class victory in Abu Dhabi. The best rookie at the 2022 Dakar took the BAS KTM to 11th overall and over half an hour margin ahead of Romain Dumontier with Paulo Lucci taking third in class.
The third round of the 2022 FIM Rally-Raid World Championship will see very different racing conditions at the hard-packed Andalucia Rally in Spain from June 6.
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge overall results (Rally GP + Rally 2):
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge stage five results (top 20):
Photo Credit: M Chykta