Reigning motorcycle champion Ross Runnalls finally won his first event of the season in tough conditions at round four of the Emirates Desert Championship in the Margham region of Dubai last Friday morning.

Riders had to battle against the elements as well as each other, as rare storms hit the UAE on Thursday and Friday. Heavy overnight rain washed away all desert tracks making navigation more difficult, as well as leaving a heavy layer of damp sand throughout the desert, which was especially difficult for the motorcycles to stay upright in. 

Thankfully, despite low temperatures and overcast skies, the wind and rain held off long enough early on Friday morning for the organisers to start the race, and all competitors were keen to score some much needed championship points, with only one more round of the championship to go.

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Runnalls took the overall motorcycle win, as well as top spot in the 450cc Class, with a comfortable margin from fellow South African Aaron Mare in second place. Mohammed Al Balooshi finished in third place overall and first in the Veteran’s Class, leaving himself and Runnalls effectively in a two way fight for the overall title going into the final round. 

While Al Balooshi, who was runner up to Runnalls last season, goes into the last race holding advantage, due to him having finished all four events compared to Runnall’s three, he will need to finish ahead of Runnalls at round five to ensure that he takes the championship as a result of the final championship standings being calculated from a rider’s best four events from five.

Elsewhere among the motorcycles, Shannon O’Connor won the Master’s Class, Benjamin Melot was best of the Over 450cc Class, and Shelby Ingrilli was top of the Marathon Class riders. Elisha Dessurne was first in the Ladies Cup.

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In the quads, Kuwaiti Fahad Al Musallam won a tight fought battle over two-time Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Obaid Al Kitbe, with the Al Musallam beating his Emirati rival by a margin of just eight tenths of a second after two hours and 100kms of racing. 

Khalifa Al Rasse finished the podium off with third place. Al Kitbe will be hoping for a strong result in round five as he aims to become the fourth different Emirati to win the quad title in four seasons.

“Today was a real challenge for the competitors and we were lucky that the conditions permitted us to run the race, although they deteriorated a bit as we got to the end. A lot of the competitors are using this championship as training for the Dubai International Baja and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge coming in March and April, so I am glad that we still gave them the opportunity to race today”, said ATCUAE President and EMSF Chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem. 

“I would like to thank all those that came out today to the event, not just those that competed, but more importantly the marshals, sweep team, media, service crew and spectators who braved the worst of the conditions to support UAE motorsport”, concluded Ben Sulayem.

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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). 

The fifth and final round of the championship will be held on Friday 17th February 2017, and will be followed by the Dubai International Baja on the 9th to 11th March and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge from the 30th March to 6th April 2017.

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Words: Stuart Murray | Images: Tim Ansell & Greg Flaski