Sam Sunderland KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi 2017 1200

Photo Credit: Marcin Kin

Sam Sunderland claimed victory on the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The stage started east of Arjan, south of Abu Dhabi, and finished north of the remote desert resort of Qasr al Sarab. 

Dakar Rally winner Sunderland started last on the road, claimed the win by just three seconds and holds a small overnight advantage of just 5.7 seconds over the Chilean defending FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Pablo Quintanilla, riding his Husqvarna. 

“It was good to win the stage and have the choice of position, because this race is quite strategic,” told Sunderland. “It was a heavy day, really tough, and we had to push a lot. To start last and finish first was not easy. 

“The deserts are really unpredictable out there. The rain of the past weeks, I lost the front (of the bike) in the sand, in the soft dunes, braking a few times. This caused a bit of stress. But the bike is working good. I will take each day as it comes. Obviously starting first tomorrow, I will lose time. But we will see.”

“It was a really difficult stage,” said Quintanilla. “I came from behind with Sam. I rode really fast and I was leading for a time. But it was a good stage. It was important to come back strongly from my crash on the Dakar and get my confidence again.”

Kuwait’s Mohammed Jaffar and Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi reached the finish in eighth and ninth overall on their respective KTMs.


Words: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge