KTM’s Sam Sunderland kicked off the opening round of the Emirates Desert Championship in style with victory in Dubai…

Fresh from his runner-up result in the FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship for the second season in succession, Dubai based British rider Sam Sunderland returned to the Emirates Desert Championship with a dominant win in the opening round of the series.

The only rider to challenge Sunderland was KTM UAE teammate, and last year’s champion, Ross Runnalls, who suffered several mishaps during the day including losing his drinking water pack and a badly timed pitstop that lost him time on his rival and limited him to second place. 

Emirati Mohammed Al Balooshi was third on the day, as well as winner of the new Veteran Class.

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“It was really cool to come back to the Emirates Desert Championship today and get the win. This series helped me get into rally so when I can race one I really enjoy it,” told Sunderland. 

“The conditions were tough because of the heat, but it was great riding with my mates here in Dubai, and I’m now fully focused on working towards Dakar. 

“I’d like to thank Red Bull, XDubai and KTM UAE for the support, as well as the championship organisers and officials for putting on a great event.”

In the Quad competition, Kuwaiti rider Fahad Al Musallam pickup up his first ever win in the championship by employing a wise strategy of carrying a heavy fuel load to save time by not requiring refueling stops. 

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Former Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Obaid Al Kitbe returned to a quad for the first time in several years, picking up an impressive second place, with Saudi rider Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi in third.

Other moto class winners on the day included defending Marathon Class Champion Tom Childs from the UK, Sean Gaugain in the Over 450 Class, and defending Masters Class Champion Janne Tuohino. South African Sune Schaffler was first in the Ladies Cup.

The event was held on Friday 14th October 2016 in the Al Lisali region of Dubai, in sweltering temperatures of around 40°c. 101 competitors started the event across the motorcycle, quad, auto and buggy categories.

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“For sure, this was a really challenging day for all competitors. As the opening round of the season, it was probably the hottest event of the year, and I’m hugely impressed that so many competitors finished the race. Even more importantly, I am delighted that we had no injuries today”, said ATCUAE President and EMSF Chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

“It was a pleasure to see such a strong turnout today, as well as welcome our first ever competitors from Iceland, Sudan and Pakistan. This demonstrates the huge appeal of this championship and its growing international reputation.” 

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The Emirates Desert Championship is organised by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF). 

Five rounds will be held throughout the 2016-17 season with the next event scheduled for Friday 11th November 2016.


Photos: Tim Ansell and Greg Falski